Music: Of Ghosts & Soap

The problem in low-keyed contemporary opera is to convert the small change of daily life into glittering operatic gold. Some composers approach the challenge by advancing a closeup telecamera's eye on the commonplace; some retreat into fantasy or burlesque or the past. In two U.S. premieres last week, composers faced with the question came up with strikingly different answers:

¶ British Composer Benjamin Britten's Turn of the Screw, presented by the New York College of Music, is based on Novielist Henry James's famed chiller about a young English governess fresh from a "small,...

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