The Turn of the Screw, The Mill, Newtown Abbey
Surrogate Cities, Royal Festival Hall, London
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London

This first-rate spine-chiller notches up another hit production for the fledgling Northern Ireland Opera

Constructed as a series of variations, Benjamin Britten's 1954 chamber opera The Turn of the Screw is an enigma. The narrator of the Prologue is conspicuously detached from the story, his witnesses unreliable: a halfwit house-keeper, a hysterical governess, two traumatised children and two ghostly predators whose crimes are couched in innuendo. Time blurs in the opera, the decorative trappings of a Victorian, Edwardian or mid 20th-century country house fading from view. Most unnervingly, there is a sense that the turning does not end with the performance, that the circling 12-note theme continues, unheard.

Oliver Mears's production for Northern Ireland Opera takes adolescence as its focal point, setting the work in the period of its composition, when the teenager was emerging as a social phenomenon and young women of slender means had to find a husband promptly or risk stigmatisation as fast girls of the type portrayed by Diana Dors. In the labyrinthine corridors of Bly – a series of noiselessly gliding panels designed by Annemarie Woods – we see Miles (Thomas Copeland) and Flora (Lucia Vernon) exchange the knickers and smocks of 1950s childhood for the uniform of young adulthood. Rebellion is in the air: in Flora's sinister games with her doll, in the crazy-mirror scales and arpeggios of Miles's piano practice, and the children's crowing perversion of the Te Deum. Meanwhile, the Governess (Fiona Murphy) struggles to suppress her own sexual curiosity, dreaming the Act II encounter between Quint (Andrew Tortise) and Miss Jessel (Giselle Allen) from a tangled bed. Charged with doing nothing to disturb her employer, she continues to do nothing, cheered on by Yvonne Howard's doughty Mrs Grose.

In an opera that is notable for its understatement, Mears leaves open the question of Jessel and Quint's corp-oreality, playing instead with details of language. This is a first-rate cast, with first-rate diction, from the bright chimes of the two children to the coagulated moans of Allen's Jessel, Tortise's clipped Narrator and sarcastic Quint, Howard's fretful clucking and Murphy's incendiary unravelling. In the pit, Nicholas Chalmers foregrounds the percussion under glassy strings and hallucinogenic blooms of colour from the wind. It's a Screw any company would be proud to tour. From a company that is barely a year old, it's remarkable.

Music Nation, Radio 3's country-wide "cultural countdown" to the 2012 Olympics, offered a mixed portrait of musical Britain, performed live in different locations. While Glasgow dumbed down to the theme music from Chariots of Fire, London brained up on the fractured narratives of Heiner Goebbels' Surrogate Cities, performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra. Under Jonathan Stockhammer, this 1994 A-Z of real and imagined urban landscapes sounded slick and dangerous, a polyglot, film-noir fantasy of smoky dives, dusty synagogues, Varèse-inspired monsters of metal and concrete, and wild-eyed strangers. Surrogate Cities is a lament and an aubade: crooned, shrieked and growled in the kinetic vocalism of David Moss and the sultry keening of Jocelyn B Smith. For those wanting more Goebbels, Birmingham Conservatoire has a festival of his work starting on 19 March, while Up-River Book, the piece he created at the Southbank Centre last week, can be heard online now (aroomforlondon.co.uk).

Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra offered a foretaste of summer in last weekend's all-lollipop programme with Renaud Capuçon. If this ensemble has a defining characteristic, other than the intensity of its bowing and the sweetness of its wind and brass, it is the ability to transform preconceptions. Under Fischer's direction, Brahms becomes a radical sensualist, Rimsky-Korsakov a miniaturist, Lalo an introvert. This was a Tragic Overture that pressed its palm to the small of your back, a Scheherazade of extraordinary delicacy, and a Symphonie espagnole of aching melancholy. The spell extended to Capuçon, whose habitually flawless playing acquired new darkness and virility.

 

'The Turn of the Screw' (028-9038 5673) Lyric Theatre, Belfast, 20 Mar

Classical choice

Renaud Capuçon, the Guildhall Chamber Ensemble and the BBC Symphony Orchestra celebrate Australia's leading composer in Total Immerson: Brett Dean at London's Barbican Centre (Sat). David McVicar returns to Scottish Opera with a new production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Theatre Royal, Glasgow (from Sat).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests