||[Mar. 31st, 2007|12:32 pm]
20th Century English Music
Hello, brigg fairers! I'm back.
For my birthday earlier this month, my fabulous mom got me the Ian Bostridge CDs of Britten's The Turn of the Screw. I already had one recording of it, but it was a live recording with inferior sound quality. (I had chosen it because it had fabulous Anthony Rolfe-Johnson in it, and it does have a good cast with excellent performance.) I think this is the first time I've owned two recordings of the same opera. I've wanted to for a few operas, but it always seemed too decadent, especially since there are many operas I haven't even heard once yet (like Death in Venice).
Does anyone know Turn of the Screw? It's based on the Henry James novella which is a terrifying ghost story and one of my favorites - the story, that is. It's about a Jane-Eyreish governess to two lovely children in a house haunted by former servants.
I've just never been able to fall in love with this opera, no matter how much I try. I thought before that perhaps it was because I just didn't have a very good recording (in spite of the stellar cast). But no, even with this excellent recording, which is making me appreciate a lot of things I never noticed before, I still can't get too crazy about it. I do like it very much, but not the way I love some other Britten operas. It makes me feel wrong not to love it! I think I would really like to talk to Britten about it. To ask him questions. Why did you do this part this way?
Maybe I'm more critical because I already loved the Henry James story so much. And also, the story is written in such an ambiguous way, and you can't be nearly so ambiguous on stage. Either the singer is on stage or he's not. With a written ghost, we depend on the narrator and only see what she sees. (Although Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse has a terrifying quasi-ghost-scene that's very ambiguous, and leaves the ghosts to the viewer's/listener's imagination. I wanted to scream while I was watching it!)
That said, TotS does have its moments of terror - particularly the moment where Mrs. Grose, the old housekeeper, suddenly realizes that the man the governess has just seen and described is the (dead) former valet, Peter Quint. And I love this recording. For the evil and melismatic ghostly Peter Quint, I adore my Anthony Rolfe Johnson, but I also adore Ian Bostridge. They're both such wonderful vocal actors, in addition to being excellent singers. I've never seen either of them on stage, alas. And one thing I prefer about this recording is that the two children are played by children, a girl and boy soprano. Oftentimes they get a woman to play the girl (and still have a boy soprano.) A woman may give a stronger performance than a girl, but I think she ought to sound childlike like the boy, especially since she's supposed to be younger than the boy. They should match.
This new recording is making me love the opera more. Maybe I just need some time.