Lyric opera in a prologue and two acts
libretto Myfanwy Piper

based on the novel "The turn of the screw" by Henry James
music Benjamin Britten


conductor Maestro Jonathan Webb
director Benedetto Sicca
Set design Maria Paola Di Francesco
Costumes design Marco Piemontese
Light design Marco Giusti
Video Marco Farace
Orchestra Maggio Musicale Fiorentino


Governess Lisa Milne/ Anna Gillingham
Prologue/Quint John Daszak
Mrs. Grose Gabriella Sborgi
Miss Jessel Yana Kleyn
Flora Erin Hughes

Miles Theo Lally


Opening night Teatro Golden, Firenze May 22nd 2015

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The turn of the screw is a Benjamin Britten opera, but also a Henry James long novel. To stage this opera is necessary to reflect on what, James first, and the english composer later, with the librettist Myfanwy Piper complicity, have built around a curious story – in the words of the Prologue of the opera. It is a very elaborated mechanism, based on language tricks and narrative distractions, that constantly call upon the reader and the audience: a door open, their are conducted to ask question to themselves (or, better, to listen to some questions), some instruments are offered them to came of with an answer and, just when the answer is coming, they are put in the condition to ask themselves another question.

The doubt is the screw that turn in the audience mind and soul: a doubt that refears to their inner ghosts, fears, desires and their most hidden fantasies.


The curious ghost story in which – like in the most recent film adaptation – is impossible to understand if the Living are more real than the ghosts or the Deads persist to try to feel alive, it is a deep questioning to the audience certainty who is called to screw into the mystery of the evil and the lost innocence, without understanding why.


The turn of the screw is the story of a Governess that is going to take care of two orphan children, in custody of an old and almost illiterate waitress and of a distant, rich and seeming friendly uncle who is ther tutor. But the plot became a container of suspects between what happened and what is suggested, and in this limbo evolve opinions and arbitrary images of the present and of the past, that deform the reality and make it one of the possible variation of a point of view.

Whose is this point of view? Nobody knows. The point of view, as the theme created by Britten, vary and vary again and twist in the evolution (and involution) of the opera. And if the point of view varies, the solution at the questions at our doubts drifts. What happened to the little Miles? What has he done so bad to worth an expulsion from the school? What there was between him and the ex-butler Peter Quint? What relationship there was between the dead Peter Quint and his equally dead wife? What relationship there is – if there is – between Peter Quint and the uncle tutor of the children? Why the Governess accepted the conditions that the tutor imposed? Why the Governess leaves her daughter to go to take care of two unknown children (an echo of Mrs Wix, obsessive, super-egotic little Maise governess in the novel “What Maisie knew” by Henry James.


The lack of an answer at this questions stimulate in the audience memory an anamnesis of their interior caves. A large part of the commentator of the turn of the screw (and before that, of James' novel) put in the centre of this ghost story a question: the ghost exist or are just a projection of the characters' minds (usually the Governess')?

I believe that the interpreter task in this text is to avoid this dualism, and to apply at the opera an other turn of the screw that permit the audience to doubt more, to lose more in their interior maze.


The language used for the first turn of the screw (James) is the writing, for the second (Britten) is the music, and what I have chosen to apply the third turn of the screw is the visual theatre by 3D images and shadows. The stereoscopy realizes, in front of the audience eyes faint presences, projections of the novel. The upside down and the confusion between a bi-dimensional world, of shadows in flesh and blood and a three-dimensional world that flows in the air, permit to narrate a story where the Britten's wonderful music conducts us, however, at the tragic epilogue of an innocent child mysterious death.  


Benedetto Sicca


translation by Alessandra Carlino