The infamous horror novella by Henry James from 1898 comes to the stage in the form of a chamber opera. October is the time for ghosts stories, creepy characters, and spooky tales, and The Turn of the Screw checks all those boxes and more to deliver a chilling experience. The Seattle Opera puts on an amazing show with a wide variety of casting and set design.
The plot concerns a governess, who is hired to look after a man’s niece and nephew at their mansion in the country. But when she arrives, she finds the children behaving unusually, and visions of ghostly figures lead her to suspect they may be possessed by departed spirits.
This operatic adaptation, directed by Peter Kazaras, was written in the 1950’s, and this particular production reflects that aesthetic in its costume design. The set design is inventive and unusual, starting out flat with projected images upon it, then with a staircase and real windows emerging into the third dimension.
It’s deceptive and ambiguous, like the story it’s based on. Many aspects are left open and up to the viewer to interpret whether the ghosts are really there, or just figments of the governess’ imagination. It may leave some viewers frustrated that all details are not fully explained, but I would argue there is palpable tension and dread due to this unresolved nature to the story.
It’s the music and the performers that are the draw here. Young Rafi Bellamy Plaice stands out with a beautiful voice as the young boy Miles. He handles the material exceptionally, a particular highlight being the first act song “Malo.” This role is double casted and Forrest Wu, takes on the role for three nights.
All else come away in high regard, too. Elizabeth Caballero is fantastic as the governess, as is Soraya Mafi, despite being an adult is utterly convincing in her body language in playing a child.
Atmospheric, brooding, and mysterious, it’s unlike any opera I’ve seen before. If you’re uninterested in opera as an art form it may not convince you otherwise, but anybody unfamiliar and willing to give it a try, this production is a wonderful one to see. Plus, it’s the right time of year for some scares.
The Turn of the Screw is playing Oct 17, 20, 24, 26, & 27 at McCaw Hall in Seattle. Main floor seats start at $49! Get your tickets HERE.