|Composer Benjamin Britten|
This year’s opera The Turn of the Screw doesn’t have the ever-popular songs that Oklahoma! does, or even the familiar musical moments of La Bohème, but composer Benjamin Britten did include very tuneful children’s songs in the opera. One notable song that could have several meanings is Miles’ song “Malo.” This verse was originally a pneumonic device to help beginning Latin students remember the different meanings and conjugations of the word “malo:” 1) verb “malo” meaning “I wish;” 2) the noun “malus” meaning “apple tree” and “malum” meaning “apple;” and 3) the noun “malum” meaning “evil” – but his song seems to have dark undertones, especially because Britten set it to very melancholy music.
Here is the text of the song:
Malo: I would rather be
Malo: in an apple tree
Malo: than a naughty boy
Malo: in adversity
Click here to hear Thomas Parfitt as Miles sing this song at the 2011 Glyndebourne Festival. Remember this song, because you’ll hear a variation of it at the end of the opera.
Britten’s The Turn of the Screw may not be mainstream, but it certainly leaves an impression. We hope that you will get even more out of your experience having learned a little more about the music. Enjoy the show!
The Turn of the Screw plays its final performance on Saturday, August 4 at 8pm. Hurry to see it before it disappears!
Want to know more? This blog post is part of the article What to Listen for in The Turn of the Screw, found in the 2012 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide - PDF). We also excerpted the section on The Turn of the Screw’s twelve-tone row in a previous blogpost.