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Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw

Thursday 26 May 2016

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The University of St Andrews’ opera company, Byre Opera, will bring Benjamin Britten’s ghostly masterpiece The Turn of the Screw to stages across Scotland and the North of England as part of a summer tour beginning next month (22 June).

Britten’s 1954 chamber opera The Turn of the Screw is based on Henry James’ 1898 chilling tale of the same name, whose storyline blurs the line between the natural and supernatural. The production will make use of special effects to reveal malevolent ghosts and the set design will include taxidermy and old and unused toys to set the tone of the gothic production.

The cast includes current students and recent graduates from the University of St Andrews, many of whom are recipients of music scholarships at the University’s Music Centre. The opera is the culmination of a year of musical study by the cast, who have enjoyed coaching from some of the UK’s leading opera singers, including tenor John Graham Hall and soprano Marie McLaughlin who have performed with the likes of the Royal Opera and Opéra National de Paris.

Dr Michael Downes, Director of Music at the University of St Andrews, said: “We are concluding our sequence of Benjamin Britten’s three chamber operas with The Turn of the Screw. Spine-tingling ghost stories have an enduring appeal and Byre Opera’s performance will be a truly chilling tale for a summer’s evening.

“The cast of current students and recent graduates give a gripping performance and are testament to the talent and dedication of University students who participate in a wide range of opportunities at the University Music Centre all year round. I’m very pleased to be bringing Byre Opera to new audiences during our summer tour.”

For many of the cast, Byre Opera is a springboard to further musical pursuits. Caroline Taylor, who plays the lead role of the governess, graduated last year in Modern Languages and has earned a place to study singing at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Current student Chris Huggon plays the role of the ghost Peter Quint. Alongside his studies of Modern Languages, he is a member of the young artists’ scheme Genesis Sixteen. Art History undergraduate Angharad Rowlands is a member of the prestigious Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, and Classics and English undergraduate Catherine Hooper is in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.

Tania Holland Williams, a singer, opera director and arts producer who has previously worked with the Royal Opera House, Royal Academy and British Council, will direct The Turn of the Screw, returning to St Andrews after directing Byre Opera’s successful 2014 production of Britten’s Albert Herring.

Tania Williams, commented: “There are so many ways of interpreting The Turn of the Screw and it is a fabulous ghost story. I am absolutely delighted to be exploring the subtleties of the work with students from the University of St Andrews, who apply such a rigour of intellect and interrogation to their performance work.”

Byre Opera will perform at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews from 22 to 24 June. The company will then visit Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling on 28 June, Haddo House in Aberdeenshire on 2 July, and The Maltings Theatre in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 8 July.


About Byre Opera

Byre Opera provides outstanding performing opportunities for the University’s most talented vocal students. Founded in 2008 as St Andrews Opera, it became Byre Opera in 2015 following the University’s acquisition of the Byre Theatre. The company provides students with experience of singing on stage and it has brought opera of an outstanding quality to audiences in St Andrews and further afield.

The company’s singers are drawn mainly from the undergraduate and postgraduate student bodies, but casts have also included young professionals from throughout the UK, University staff, and singers from the local community. The company's singers have benefited from regular coaching from numerous distinguished international opera singers including the University's Honorary Professor of Singing, Brian Bannatyne-Scott.

Previous alumni who have participated in Byre Opera productions have included Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Ben McAteer and Laurie Slavin, a current Master’s student in vocal studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 

Praise for Byre Opera

“As Iphigenie, Caroline Taylor was beautifully pure… Michael Downes conducted a performance that highlighted the suppleness and subtlety of the music.” The Scotsman

“Chris Huggon’s Pylades sang with expressive sincerity” Opera Magazine

Tour dates & ticket information

Byre Theatre, St Andrews
Wednesday 22 to Friday 24 June, 7.30pm
Tickets: full price £17, concession £13, student and U26 £7.50
Offer: ticket holders can enjoy a two course meal with a glass of wine for £12.95 in the Byre Theatre Café Bar
Box office online or call 01334 475000

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
Tuesday 28 June, 7.30pm
Tickets: full price £17, concession £15.50, student £5.50
Box office online or call 01786 466666

Haddo House, Aberdeenshire
Saturday 2 July, 3pm
Tickets: full price £17, concession £13, U26 £7.50
Book via National Trust for Scotland online or call 01651 851440

The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-Tweed
Friday 8 July, 7.30pm
Tickets: full price £15, concession £13.50/£10
Box office online or call 01289 330999

Notes to editors

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.