The dark psychological terrain of Henry James found an ideal musical exponent in the British composer Benjamin Britten, who turned two of James’ short stories – “The Turn of the Screw” and “Owen Wingrave” – into operas in the 1950s and 1970s.
The better-known of the two is “The Turn of the Screw,” which debuted in 1954. It’s a ghost story that tells of the haunting of two children by two separate phantoms (this is one “turn of the screw” ― an upping of the undead stakes from a solitary ghost and lone hauntee ― that gives James’ 1898 story its title; its other meaning refers to the extra effort required for virtue to take on evil in the final scene).
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