Henry James himself referred to The Turn of the Screw as “a fairy tale pure and simple.” This archetypal conflict between the universal realities of good versus evil and natural versus supernatural in James’s novella attracted the attention of the composer most prepared to set such psychic storms to music: Benjamin Britten. The story lends itself to Britten’s gif for apt and distinctive musical characterization—the relatively pure, uncomplicated music for the opera’s mere mortals, and the other-worldly music composed for the ghosts.
January 12: Caroline Levander, professor of English at Rice University, will discuss this controversial and hotly debated novella published in 1898.
January 19: Colin Ure, dramaturg of the Houston Grand Opera, will examine the creative process behind Benjamin Britten’s opera and describe the transformation of Henry James’s novella to the modern operatic stage.
January 27: Participants will attend a working dress rehearsal of HGO’s production of The Turn of the Screw, the penultimate practice before the opera opens at the Wortham Theater. Following the rehearsal, we will be invited for an exclusive onstage and backstage tour of the set, designed especially for this HGO production.
Caroline Levander is the Carlson Professor in the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. She is currently writing Laying Claim: Imagining Empire on the U.S. Mexico Border (under contract, Oxford University Press) and Where Is American Literature? (for Wiley-Blackwell’s Manifesto Series), and co-editing Teaching and Studying the Americas (Palgrave Macmillan) and A Companion to American Literary Studies (Blackwell). She is author of Cradle of Liberty: Race, the Child and National Belonging from Thomas Jefferson to W.E.B. Du Bois (Duke University, 2006) and Voices of the Nation: Women and Public Speech in Nineteenth-Century American Culture and Literature (Cambridge University Press 1998 and reprinted 2009) as well as co-editor of Hemispheric American Studies (Rutgers University Press, 2008) and The American Child: A Cultural Studies Reader (Rutgers University Press, 2003). Professor Levander is co-editor of a book series, Imagining the Americas, co-founder of the Americas Colloquium at Rice University and developed the Rice Americas Archive.
Scottish-born Colin Ure studied singing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Following graduation he studied in Aldeburgh with the tenor Peter Pears, the life-long partner of Benjamin Britten. Prior to his appointment as Houston Grand Opera’s dramaturg in 2006, Mr. Ure was a classical singer and artist manager with several classical agencies in the United Kingdom.
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