This recording of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw originated with a 2021 live online performance by the La Monnaie Opera in Brussels; it was to be played live before an audience, but pandemic restrictions intervened. Perhaps that was for the best from a recording standpoint; the sound here, captured over three performances, has unusual clarity and depth. It is a crackling performance, full of energy and the suppressed tensions, some of them homoerotic, that mark Britten's rendition of Henry James' novel. Conductor Ben Glassberg, leading the La Monnaie Chamber Orchestra, modestly writes that "everything is in the score" and that The Turn of the Screw "requires almost no musical interpretation in the strict sense of the word." Yet he brings an urgency and precision to the score that makes it work, giving a natural inevitability to the relationship between the 12-tone "Screw" theme and the individual scenes Britten's variations of this theme lead into, and he's an excellent manager of singers in a cast led here by Sally Matthews as the Governess and Julian Hubbard as Peter Quint (all are anglophones except for Katharina Bierweiler as Flora). Unlike in so many Britten performances, listeners here will need little recourse to a printed or online libretto. Here is a Turn of the Screw that truly does justice to the work's sharp edge.
Britten: The Turn of the Screw Review
by James Manheim