In review: Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’

Photo credit: Tilted Frame Photography

Photo credit: Tilted Frame Photography

In June and July 2016, I was delighted to perform again with Byre Opera as Governess in their production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, directed by Tania Holland-Williams and musically-directed and conducted by Michael Downes. This was my first performance in St Andrews since graduating in June 2015 – and it was a great pleasure to return to the East Neuk once more.

Before beginning rehearsals, I had read up about Britten’s music, the plot and themes of Turn and the role of the Governess in Victorian culture. However, I didn’t expect that becoming the Governess would provide me with such a fascinating and haunting insight into the relationships between characters in a story – and the effects of knowledge, power and being ‘other’. It is, to date, the most exhilarating role I have ever performed – and I hope that I will have the chance to perform it again one day soon!

Rehearsals began in late May for shows in St Andrews’ Byre Theatre in June, followed by a tour to Stirling University’s MacRobert Arts Centre, the church of St Andrew’s and St George’s West in Edinburgh and ending at the Maltings in Berwick-upon-Tweed in mid-July. The most exciting elements of rehearsing – besides working with everyone involved! – were getting to know the set, the props and the costumes, all of which were beautifully designed and selected by Gregor Donnelly, and getting to know Britten’s music and intentions in the work, which encouraged all of us to really live the lives of our characters when we performed.

The production was met with fantastic acclaim and I felt very proud to have been a part of it. It was great to work with Tania again (following my 2014 performance as Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring), to work with Michael and the superb chamber ensemble and to perform alongside faces old and new. This was a very special production and I would like to thank all those who supported us!

“Caroline Taylor blossomed as the Governess. She inhabited the part, held the stage, sang sensitively, moved intelligently: this well-schooled singer is maturing handsomely. The axis between her and the ten-year-old Ben Clark’s Miles was the dominant force of the performance…“
(Andrew Clark, Opera Magazine)

“…[I] was captivated by a young soprano, Caroline Taylor, who hasn’t even reached music college yet (she starts next term) but sang the Governess with exactly the right mix of beauty and neurosis.”
(Michael White, The Catholic Herald)

“The manifestation of Quint (Chris Huggon) and Miss Jessel (Catherine Hooper) here are very real, but soprano Caroline Taylor – about to begin her Masters studies at the Royal Northern College of Music – suggests other interpretations in the anxious Governess she presents from the beginning. Her diction in particular is exemplary […] A testament to the quality of the music-making at St Andrews, it is to be hoped the department has upcoming vocal talents to match those of Taylor and Huggon for its upcoming production of Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen. 4 stars”
(Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland)

“…a hugely impressive piece of work for such a young group of performers. Caroline Taylor, about to take up a scholarship at the Royal Northern College of Music, returned to the company as the Governess. Taylor gets better by the year, in this role conveying convincingly not just youth and naievety but the necessary neurotic behaviour […] beautifully sung, strongly characterised…”
(Iain Fraser, Opera Scotland)

Pre-performance coverage: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2016/title,527964,en.php

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