Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Praise for The Turn of the Screw

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Soraya Mafi (Flora). Jacob Lucas photo

"Plan on being exhilaratingly chilled and disoriented."

"Benjamin Britten’s music is unfailingly delicious, and Seattle Opera’s never utilized more potent scenic effects: two reasons to go see The Turn of the Screw before it closes Saturday."

Seen and Heard International:
"One other ‘character’ deserves mention. Britten’s orchestra is a small but mighty 13 players. His evocative motifs and manipulation of a primary theme, which he takes through 12 variations, are a backbone for the overall tone. The composer uses every instrument of the ensemble, from bass to celesta, to create a haunting musical atmosphere."

The Seattle Times:
"But for those who can’t get enough of gothic horror at this time of year, it could make a welcome addition to the usual haunted-house horror-movie Halloween fare."

“'Turn of the Screw' asks deep questions, many ultimately unanswered: What is real, and what is perception? When do we disobey orders if we think they’re wrong? And what makes a child “go bad,” if there’s even really such a thing? And why have so many people died on that country estate?"

"On opening night, Rafi Bellamy Plaice’s angelic choirboy treble made all the more stark the contrast with the wickedness enveloping him."

Ben Bliss as Peter Quint and Marcy Stonikas as Miss Jessel. Jacob Lucas photo
"One of the most effective things about Seattle Opera’s production is the set, a mix of traditional staging elements and digital projection. Video projection can make or break an atmosphere, and in this case it makes it, turning the mansion into a haunted house full of staring portraits and foreboding hallways. The shifts in perception here are real, as the set reflects the alternating clarity and confusion in the governess’ mind."

"It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to play Peter Quint than Ben Bliss, whose presence lends a sense of menace about to pounce. As one target of his abuse, Miss Jessel (Marcy Stonikas) displays a different kind of malice — that of a miserable creature who wants someone to suffer along with her."
"It’s one of the most memorable productions the opera has done, in that every detail is equally strong, equally riveting, the story gripping."

Forrest Wu (Miles). Jacob Lucas photo
"Stage director Peter Kazaras has masterminded a brilliant conception and production."

"The projected scenery, designed by Adam Larsen and enhanced by Connie Yun’s lighting, sets the mood as well as the setting, starting with the governess’ journey to the house. The images—train and station, swaying trees, the house itself—are all intentionally a little dreamlike, a little fuzzy around the edges."

"A fine young actor, Forrest Wu sang Miles Sunday afternoon with sureness and aplomb, his voice ringing true on every note, absolutely clear and carrying through McCaw Hall without difficulty."

"(Soraya Mafi) moved and looked every bit about age 10, and was chilling in her own right as she showed Flora’s feelings through her big rag doll. Are they her feelings? Or what Miss Jessel is wanting her to think?"

Soraya Mafi (Flora), Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles) and Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess). Jacob Lucas photo

"Britten’s superbly designed score for a small orchestra of 13 musicians has its own eeriness adding to the atmosphere and supporting the singers. It was superbly played by Seattle Symphony musicians and conducted in his Seattle Opera debut by Constantin Trinks."

The Seattle Gay News:

Saturday night review:
"October, with its long, spooky path into Halloween, is the perfect moment to see The Turn of the Screw."

"Henry James' psychological thriller has translated perfectly to the operatic medium (pun intended)."

"No, it's not your fevered imagination that reads sex into the title - it's actually, really there. And the sexual anxiety that throbs through this opera is made all the more scary because children may be involved - though we're not sure - it could all be in the Governess' fevered imagination."

"Opening Night audiences heard the wonderful Rafi Bellamy Plaice ... His voice is amazingly mature and consistent through all registers - and how a young teenager can project into an opera house is a mystery to me. He handled the very sensitive role of Miles with a perfect combination of innocence as an actor and sophistication as a singer ... I'm sure I join everyone who loves treble voices in hoping that this marvelous singer, when he comes through puberty, will possess a voice as compelling in his adulthood as it is in his youth."

Soraya Mafi (Flora) and Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles). Jacob Lucas photo
"My favorite ghost was performed by Ben Bliss, who was both the narrator - the neglectful Lord who tells the young Governess never to disturb him with letters - and the ghost of the evil Peter Quint. His role is essential to make the audience understand why the Governess is frozen in her resolve to take action that might save the children. Bliss is as scary as a ghost as he is devastatingly handsome and mesmerizing as the narrator."

"Adding to the Halloween quality of the evening is a setting made primarily of projections by Adam Larsen that melt and transform from the train station, to the train, the countryside, and finally the mansion where optimism collapses into terror."

"Constantin Trinks, from Germany, made his debut as a conductor for Seattle Opera, and we can only hope to see him again. He handled his small forces with all the dynamism and drama the complex music required, while guiding his young singers with a sure hand."

Sunday matinee review:
"Although The Turn of the Screw is a chamber opera, with a six-singer cast and a thirteen-musician orchestra, it succeeds brilliantly on the Seattle Opera mainstage."

Forrest Wu as Miles. Philip Newton photo
"Boy soprano Forrest Wu as Miles sang beautifully and acted with conviction; he made the audience feel the character's confusion and suffering. As the Governess, soprano Elizabeth Caballero gave a fearless, highly emotional performance. Tenor Benjamin Bliss, who played the ghost of the deceased valet Peter Quint, was equally impressive; his calling out to Miles in a quiet high voice made me shiver."

"...conductor Constantin Trinks led a flawless performance of Britten's gorgeous, eerie score. It was a special treat to see all 13 musicians, holding their instruments, come onstage during curtain calls." 

"Sets designed by Robert Dahlstrom for Seattle Opera's 2014 production of Don Giovanni were skillfully repurposed to become the haunted mansion, with many doors and moving parts. Projections designed by Adam Larsen and lighting designed by Connie Yun were marvelously effective and evocative. Deborah Trout's costumes perfectly placed the opera in mid-20th-century England."

Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles) and Ben Bliss (Peter Quint). Philip Newton photo
Creatively Clo:
"The set design is inventive and unusual."

"It’s deceptive and ambiguous, like the story it’s based on ... 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."

"Elizabeth Caballero is fantastic as the governess, as is Soraya Mafi, who, despite being an adult, is utterly convincing in her role as 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.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."

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Maria Zifchak (Mrs. Grose). Philip Newton photo
Social media:

On Instagram: 
"Really, really disturbing but also AMAZING." - @talktodavidjames

"I'm a fan of Britten and this did not disappoint." - @ladyhawker

"Spooky, orphan filled, haunted house, opera, adapted from the classic gothic novel: YES PLEASE!" - @miss.sarahjean

On Twitter:  
"...moody and atmospheric." - @spinsterofutica

"Perfect ghost story opera. Wonderfully disorienting set and music." - @wblackwood

Soraya Mafi (Flora). Philip Newton photo
On Facebook: 
"If you’re in Seattle go see this! Perfect thriller for the Halloween season!" - Rosemary D.

"Whoa, that was dark! Malevolent ghosts, weirdo servants, innuendo, possession, sexual repression, death and creepy kids singing creepy songs. I don't quite know what happened, and I think I need to clear my browser history. But I think you need to see this." - Vern H.

"So wonderfully creepy. Had me at the edge of my seat. It seemed like everybody in the audience was holding their breath during the last scene." - Ursula Stomsvik

"Great performance. Complex and terrifying in so many small and psychological ways. LOVED the lighting. Thanks, wonderful singers."- Kate W.

The Turn of the Screw plays now through Oct. 27

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles). Philip Newton photo