Benjamin Britten's opera, "The Turn of the Screw," is "theater which happens to have music," in the view of Roger Brunyate.
"It's a tight drama of 100 minutes in which orchestral interludes surge out of one scene and plunge you into the next," Brunyate explained, noting that the music was not unimportant. "The onward unity of the setting is absolutely unbelievable. You don't come to it expecting great singing scenes . . . there are virtually no arias. Solo scenes -- yes. You have to come to it differently.
"It's the Britten buff's Britten," summarizes Brunyate, stage director of the Peabody Opera Theater's production at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Friedberg Concert Hall. Critics and Britten fans have hailed the intense drama of the power of ghosts or other forces on the imagination much the same way.
Brunyate reported a personal example of how one's personal life can change one's thinking about things in the creative process. His earlier productions of the same opera used small children playing the two small children, Miles and Flora. He felt they were driven by the power of two ghosts in the opera.
Brunyate now has a 10-year-old boy of his own and in the Peabody setting, young adults play the children. "The more I look at it, the more I see that the two children don't need to see ghosts but can be driven by real events in their own lives . . . their parents' dying, moving to a strange house, the governess' actions . . ." In any case, the action is largely in the minds of the characters (and audience).
The spare plot involves six characters, sung by one tenor and five sopranos, with an orchestra of 13. Two children move to a country house, Bly, outside London with a housekeeper. A curse evil falls on them. They are protected by a governess, the central character. Ghosts of two former servants are present. The action leads resolutely to terror and horror.
Brunyate is joined in the directing by Gene Young, music director of the Peabody Camerata. Two casts of Peabody students are rehearsing. The cast for Thursday and Saturday is Timothy Bentch, Julianne Borg, Melinda Zagarino, Marci Daniels, Laura van Teeple and Elizabeth Knauer.
The Friday cast is Jeffrey Fahnestock, Kelly Ruth Hijleh, Barbara Mountain, Nicole Staniszewski, Darci Buttema and Laura Vicari. Tickets are $15 and $7.50 for seniors and students with ID. Call 659-8124.
On April 12 and 13, the Peabody Opera Theater will perform its second production of the season, "Ormindo," a Baroque opera by Cavalli.