Ghost Song

With a governess, an isolated estate, and a battle for children’s souls, you’d think The Turn of the Screw would be more popular.

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s
Photo by Hans Wild
Britten in the mid-1960s.

The Turn of the Screw isn’t performed often enough, says Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra violinist Kyu-Young Kim. But it’s a masterpiece.

Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera is based on the classic ghost story by Henry James, in which a governess is sent to care for two young children at an isolated estate and ends up battling two apparitions for their souls. “It is so cerebral. The action is in the characters’ minds,” says Kim, who helped plan the orchestra’s Britten Festival, three weeks of concerts featuring the music of the English composer. “It’s all about what the singers can project.”

That makes Screw perfect for a concert performance, and the SPCO concerts, featuring tenor Thomas Cooley in the role of Peter Quint and soprano Sara Jakubiak as the governess, will be semi-staged, with the orchestra onstage and chairs used as props. The characters will make entrances and exits. And, of course, in a ghost story, lighting is key.

“It’s a rich score, subtle and intimate,” Kim says. “The lighting takes us into the weird places that Britten creates.” May 23–24. Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 651-282-3000,