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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 20, 2012

UI Opera Theater performs Britten's spooky Turn of the Screw

Benjamin Britten's spooky 1954 chamber opera The Turn of the Screw will be performed by the University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, in the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.

Based on the ghost story novella by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw is a powerful tale of possession and exorcism, good versus evil, and the natural versus the supernatural.

A governess arrives at a lonely English country house to care for two parentless children and soon it is clear that something is very, very wrong. Claustrophobic tension mounts as she gradually senses the truth: Evil has corrupted the children and she must fight it. Or are these spirits of a former servant and governess just projections of her imagination?

The creepy story provides a vehicle for Britten's skill as a composer for English-language opera, with uncomplicated music for the mortals contrasted with other-worldly sounds for the ghosts and the forbidden desires and deep fears that they embody.

"The theme inherent in most, if not all of Britten's operas is the corruption of innocence," says guest director Alan E. Hicks. "However, what constitutes 'innocence' in his operas and what that 'innocence' represents, as allegory, is left to the imagination of the audience member.

"This theme is perhaps most literal in the The Turn of the Screw, and like the 12-tone musical theme that permeates the score, is deconstructed and reconstructed as the story progresses. If we are to assume that the children are the innocents, then who is the corruptor -– the ghosts or the governess? Do the children play a dual role as both innocents and corruptors, and if so, is the governess the real innocent corrupted by these events? And how is innocence corrupted? What did Quint do to Jessel and the children that allows him to control them from beyond the grave? And what of the reality of the ghosts? Do they really exist or are they manifestations of some inner conflict raging within the governess?"

The UI production is conducted by William LaRue Jones, and other artistic contributors include costume designer Margaret Wenk-Kuchlbauer and lighting designer Marcus Dilliard.

The cast features Scott Michael Myers as the prologue narrator, Janel Brehm Ziegler as the governess, Kaitlin Shewmake as Flora, Andrew and Daniel Burgess as Miles, Jessica Faselt as Mrs. Grose, James Thompson as Peter Quint and Audrey Yoder as Miss Jessel.

Hicks made his professional operatic debut with Chautauqua Opera in 1996 and has spent the last 16 years in professional theatre and opera. He sang contracts with the Minnesota Opera, the Virginia Opera, the Chautauqua Opera, Opera Saratoga, and Opera Northeast, as well as presenting concerts and recitals across the United States.

As a director, Hicks won First Prize in the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition for his production of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. Since 2007, he has held contracts with Central City Opera, the Chautauqua Opera, the Florida Grand Opera, the Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera in the Ozarks, the Palm Beach Opera, and the Tulsa Opera. His students have performed on Broadway, in national and international tours, on all major television networks, and in major motion pictures.

Learn more at Read Jones' bio at

Tickets for The Turn of the Screw are $20, $15 for senior citizen, $10 for youth, and $5 for UI student with a valid UI ID. Tickets are on sale at the Englert Theater box office, which is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 319-688-2653. Tickets my be purchased online at

The UI Opera Theater is part of the School of Music in the Division of Performing Arts, UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click on the link "Subscribe or Unsubscribe" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay,