Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw is a chamber opera, requiring just six singers and an orchestra of 13. A small, intimate performance of it can have a claustrophobic creepiness all its own. But this State Opera South Australia production, presented on the cavernous Adelaide Festival Theatre stage, made it feel like there were larger, darker forces at play than mere human characters. If this is a story about lost innocence, in this telling the innocence never had a chance.

State Opera South Australia The Turn of the Screw

“A manor with evil in its walls, or a governess with evil in her mind?” the advertisements had asked us. This ambiguity is part of the allure of Henry James’ famous novella, in which a governess is sent to a country manor to care for two orphaned children, Miles and Flora, and begins to suspect that they are possessed. The ghosts of Peter Quint,...