Britten: The Turn of the Screw
By Matt F.
This is a knotty, claustrophobic little gem. Britten was never one to shy away from a compositional challenge and here he takes, depending on your point of view, the scenic or the austere route. A chamber opera, scenes are often reduced to piano and voice, but in regard to creating the intense scenes of intimacy, it works very well.
Ironically, the LSO Live label, whose reputation is that they excel in capturing the spaciousness of live recordings, does an exceptional job making the listener feel as if they are invasively close to performers, right between the piano and soprano, while at the same time not losing that penchant for range. It all adds a level of intimacy to the listening experience. The reduction in orchestral forces may be sort of a mixed bag for some; many opera fans may have become accustomed to the bravado of it all, but I like the simplicity. Without the overwhelming forces typically associated with opera it actually adds a greater level of variety, each voice and instrument seem to shine brighter than they normally would under the weight of the rest of the orchestra. The singers can focus on the subtle emoting in their singing rather than trying to stay loud enough so that the audience can here them.
It’s odd, I’ve heard chamber opera before and I didn’t focus so hard on the brevity, but something about this specific recording really drew my attention to the small details.