Roving critic George Loomis was in St. Petersburg this spring, as he recounts in a review (In Shostakovich's year, a 'Turn' for his friend, April 26) for the International Herald Tribune of Valery Gergiev's production of Britten's chamber opera The Turn of the Screw (1954) at the Mariinsky Theater (with links added):
Western audiences are hearing Shostakovich's music in megaquantities this year, thanks in part to Valery Gergiev's Herculean efforts on behalf of the symphonies in New York and London. The composer is ever-present in his orchestral programs in Russia as well, but Gergiev has also seized on the Shostakovich centenary as an occasion for exploring other composers that were special to him. Among them, Benjamin Britten is unique, for the two not only admired each other's work, they also became good personal friends.Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw is a frightening story, to be sure, but nothing can compare to the evil of the score that Britten created. This opera has never failed to creep me out. One of the events on our May schedule I am most looking forward to is a staged performance of Turn of the Screw at the Terrace Theater (May 22, 7:30 pm). Lorin Maazel will conduct some of the singers sponsored by his Châteauville Foundation, including Anne Dreyer and Jeffrey Lentz, among others.
The Maryinsky Theatre has paid tribute to Britten with a new production of "The Turn of the Screw." It is only the second Britten staging in the company's history, a Russian-language "Peter Grimes" having been offered in Soviet times. And the company imported a Scottish director for the occasion, David McVicar. McVicar staged Verdi's "Macbeth" in a stark production for the Maryinsky in 2001, and he takes a similar tack here, once again shrouding the stage in darkness, even blackness, for Britten's retelling of Henry James's ghost story set in an English country house. Tanya McCallin's sets are nearly as sparse as those she supplied for "Macbeth." Props are minimal - variously, a bed, a writing table, an upright piano, and an ever-present hobbyhorse - with decaying sliding panels that, when Adam Silverman's dim but effective lighting permitted, looked vaguely Oriental.
Galina Stolyarova, The Return of the Screw (St. Petersburg Times, April 21)