Jonathan Kent sets his 2011 Glyndebourne production of The Turn of the Screw in the 1950s. It’s effective enough especially when combined with Paul Brown’s beautiful and ingenious set and Mark Henderson’s evocative lighting. The set centres on a glass panel which appears in different places and different angles but always suggesting a semi-permeable membrane. Between reality and imagination? Knowledge and innocence? Good and evil? All are hinted at. A rotating platform allows other set elements to be rapidly and effectively deployed. There’s also a very clever treatment of the prologue involving 8mm home video.
The direction of the actors is equally good and creates strongly delineated characters. Quint is very much the polished, even suave, but deadly tempter and puppet master. Miss Jessell is given the revenant treatment and the Governess herself is very much a tortured innocent. The treatment of the children is truly disturbing. The “Tom, Tom” scene is weird and twisted and rather wonderful. There were many points where I found myself thinking about the shifting relationships in new ways and this in a work I know quite well.
All this is backed up by really good singing and acting. Miah Persson is the Governess and she is just about perfect in every respect. It’s a beautifully sung and totally believable performance. Toby Spence sings Quint and is by turns alluring and truly frightening. And where did they get the children? I think Thomas Parfitt was 11 when this was filmed but puts in a performance worthy of an experienced professional actor. It’s actually quite chilling. Joanna Songi manages the very difficult combination of singing Flora’s music while looking very young indeed, though I think she was 20 or so at the time. Susan Bickly as Mrs Grose and Giselle Allen as Miss Jessell are also very good. Jakob Hrûša conducts with a subset of the LPO in the pit. He successfully brings out the colours and textures of this wonderful score with considerable clarity.
François Roussillon does an OK job of filming. I would have liked him to have offered fewer closeups. It’s not a big stage and the sets are beautiful. On Blu-ray it would have been easy to let us see more of the overall picture. The Blu-ray picture and surround sound are very good, as one would expect. There is some useful bonus material with interviews and rehearsal footage that are worth watching though this is hardly a production that one needs a crib sheet for. There are English, French, German, Spanish and Italian subtitles and the rather handsome booklet includes a track listing, synopsis and director’s notes.