Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater will present the opera “The Turn of the Screw'' at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday on stage at the Musical Arts Center and livestreamed on IUMusicLive!
“The Turn of the Screw,'' based on the 1898 novella by Henry James, tells the story of a governess who is hired to watch over two children in the haunted Bly Manor, IU graduate student Chase Sanders said. The opera will be two acts and about two hours with intermissions.
“At a surface level it's not just a ghost story,” Sanders said. “It has a psychological component that battles reality, sanity versus madness and innocence versus corruption.”
The opera will feature two different casts. IU graduate student Sanders will play the Governess in the Friday show, and Mary Martin will play the Governess in the Saturday show.
Jacobs School of Music professor Arthur Fagen is the conductor for the opera. He said he rehearses the orchestra and also manages coordination between the singers and the orchestra.
“My responsibility in this production is to make sure that it functions well musically and the singing is delivered with an understanding of the dramatic situation,” Fagen said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the orchestra size for this opera was decreased, Fagen said. “The Turn of the Screw” is a chamber opera, so normally there would be about 14 members in the orchestra, but the orchestra was reduced to five members, he said.
The cast has been rehearsing since November. The singers met with voice coaches a few times a week over Zoom and also practiced on their own, Sanders said. She said in-person rehearsals and staging started in the beginning of March.
For in-person rehearsals, the cast wore masks, stayed socially distanced and only practiced for 40 minutes at a time, followed by a 20-minute break to let the air clear out, Sanders said. Staging is also socially distanced, and everyone will be wearing masks for the live performances.
“We had to carefully do staging to remain distanced, but you also want to make sure it makes sense,” Sanders said. “Obviously, things are going to look different with masks and everybody being far apart, but I really do think our director has done a phenomenal job. I don't think the story is lost in any way.”
Martin said “The Turn of the Screw” works well with all COVID-19 guidelines. The social distancing onstage doesn’t seem unnatural and works with the opera, she said.
“It’s not really a toe-tapping family fun for the whole gang musical type of thing,” Martin said. “It's meant to be more serious and a little scarier, so the COVID stuff doesn't really get in the way of that message.”
This is the first opera since 2019 for Martin and Sanders. Sanders said this is her first lead role in a Jacobs School of Music opera.
“Not a lot of schools have been able to do productions like this, so I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity,” Sanders said. “It's just great to sing with people again and to collaborate with people and be able to do something in person.”
Martin said it is cool to be able to make art and perform despite the pandemic. Her favorite part of virtual operas is the accessibility of attending, she said.
“You don't even have to leave your bedroom, you don't have to leave your house, you can have your Chipotle, you can have your seltzer or you can have whatever you want,” Martin said. “You can sit and enjoy it in a way that's very comfortable and very accessible for everybody.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the title of the show and incorrectly states the nights Sanders and Martin will perform.