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The Turn of the Screw 1983

July 30 - August 20, 1983

A governess discovers…

…the children in her charge are haunted by former servants in Henry James’s Gothic tale.

Music By
Benjamin Britten
Libretto By
Myfanwy Piper after the Henry James short story



The Narrator reads from a manuscript, written by the Governess of her stay at the country estate, Bly. At the age of twenty, she took charge of two children at their uncle’s request. But he insisted that she was never to bother him with details of the household.

Act I

The Journey: Traveling by train, the Governess wonders about her upcoming fate.

The Welcome: Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, and the two children, Miles and Flora, greet the Governess at Bly.

The Letter: While the two children sit singing “Lavender’s blue, diddle, diddle,” the Governess informs Mrs. Grose of Miles’ s dismissal from school.

The Tower: Walking in the garden, musing on her loneliness, the Governess sees an apparition on the house ramparts.

The Window: In the schoolroom, the Governess ponders what she has seen, as the children sing “Tom, Tom, the piper’s son.” The apparition, a man, reappears at the window. Mrs. Grose enters and the Governess asks about him. It is Peter Quint, a former valet who died in an accident. Aside, Mrs. Grose exclaims, “Is there no end?”

The Lesson: During a Latin lesson, Miles becomes withdrawn, singing his eerie “Malo” song and frightening the Governess.

The Lake: The Governess and Flora are sitting by the lake when the ghost of Miss Jessel appears. Her influence over the child becomes apparent, and the Governess is terrified.

At Night: Awakened, the Governess finds Miles in the garden, staring up at the tower. Flora watches from a window. Quint and Miss Jessel appear and sing their ‘haunting duet.’ Completely shattered, the Governess rushes to Miles, who calmly says, “You see, I am bad.”

Act II

Colloquy and Soliloquy: Quint and Miss Jessel express their feelings toward each other and the children. “I seek a friend.” Then together, they sing a quotation from Yeats, “The ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

The Bells: On their way to church with the Governess and Mrs. Grose, the children sing their Latin lesson, which, in contrast to the church bells, becomes ironically irreverent. In the churchyard, Miles confronts the Governess about returning to school. Upset, she decides to write his uncle, then flee Bly. 

Miss Jessel: However, returning home, the Governess finds Miss Jessel sitting at her schoolroom desk, singing “I am weary and cannot rest.” With sudden conviction, she blurts out, “They are mine, my children.” Her mind made up to stay, she sits down to write their uncle.

The Bedroom: At night, the Governess discovers Miles sitting on his bed, staring into space. The voice of Quint can be heard, calling. She tries to communicate with the child, but the candle is blown out and Miles claims he did it.

Quint: Miles is persuaded to steal the Governess’s letter. 

The Piano: The Governess, Mrs. Grose, Miles and Flora are assembled in the schoolroom. Miles is playing the piano; Flora is playing cats cradle. Mrs. Gross is lulled to sleep, and the Governess is distracted by Miles’s playing. Flora creeps away. When they realize what has happened, the Governess and Mrs. Grose run to find her, leaving Miles pounding triumphantly on the piano. 

Flora: They discover her by the lake. The Governess sees Miss Jessel, tempting the child. She tries to make Mrs. Grose see her, too. But Flora turns on the Governess, crying, “You’re cruel horrible, hateful, nasty.” Mrs. Grose, who cannot see the ghost, becomes alarmed at the Governess’s behavior and takes the child away.

Miles: It is the next morning. Mrs. Grose is taking Flora to her uncle. Once they have gone, Miles enters, and the Governess confronts him about the theft of the letter. Quint appears on the tower, and the two of them argue with the child. The Governess urges him to say the name of the man who made him take the letter. Quint warns him not to trust her. When, finally, he says the name ”Peter Quint,” Miles falls into her arms and Quint disappears. With horror, she realizes that Miles has died.


Sheri Greenawald headshot

Sheri Greenawald


The Governess

Mary Jane Johnson headshot

Mary Jane Johnson


Miss Jessel

Judith Christin headshot

Judith Christin


Mrs. Grose

Santa Fe Opera

Michael Myers


Peter Quint/ The Prologue

Santa Fe Opera

David Owen



Santa Fe Opera

Heather Dials



Edo de Waart headshot

Edo de Waart


David Alden headshot

David Alden


Robert Israel headshot

Robert Israel

Scenic Designer

Craig Miller headshot

Craig Miller

Lighting Designer