I’m George Walker.
The Turn of the Screw is based on a novel by Henry James and the music is by Benjamin Britten. It’s on stage at the IU Opera Theater this Friday and Saturday at 7:30.
In The Turn of the Screw, a young governess receives three directives from her absent new employer before she arrives as Bly House. “Never write to him about the children. Never ask him about the history of the house. Never abandon her charges.” Her charges turn out to be a joy. I’m talking with two of the actors who are playing the governess. Mary Martin and Chase Sanders.
Chase, you’re originally from Pennsylvania and you went to a small school outside of Philadelphia.
Chase Chanders: Yes, I went to Westchester, a small school.
George: And you were thinking not thinking about music until a choir director turned your head.
Chase: Yes, he did. I’ always loved singing and never had the confidence to go for it, but he really believed in me. I would hate to look back on my life and say ‘what if. ‘And so far, I’m happy with my decision.
George: So now you’re at the IU School of Music. And what are you finding here?
Chase: Its an absolute honor to stand on the IU Stage. This level of opera, you can’t find anywhere else. Opera is king here and I just feel so lucky because not a lot of schools are able. And luckily, we’re able to do it while staying safe.
George: Mary Martin is the senior member here. She got her undergrad and her masters at the University of Michigan.
Mary: I’m from the Detroit Metro area. I love Michigan. I love Detroit. I love Ann Arbor and everything about it. I had my own private voice studio there and decided that I wanted to go back to school and work on being a better teacher. And so, I came to Indiana University. I can’t believe it, but I am in my last semester of study here.
George: Wow! Now, Michael Shell is the director and you’ve worked with him in the past. How is he adapting The Turn of the Screw for the pandemic?
Mary: The other production that I got to work on with Michael was The Marriage of Figaro, it was before this crazy world became the way that it is now. In The Marriage of Figaro, there was a lot of physical bits. Someone was lifted and I we were always touching each other. Here, no on is anywhere near one another. For The Turn of the Screw, we’re all about ten feet apart and wearing masks, so this presents some challenges. We are at a distance from each other and we’re wearing masks. We are opera singers, and we make it work because we can be rather loud, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
George: Chase, Mary talks a little bit about the masks. Are there special ones for singers?
Chase: Yes, the costume department actually designed singers’ masks for us. Prior to getting those masks I was using a regular surgical mask. The problem with that is your lips are touching and sometimes it tickles when you sing. And whenever you have to open your mouth, really tall and narrow, when you’re singing a high note, the mask falls below your nose and you have to pick it up. These new masks are really neat. I can sing whatever and it’s not going to fall off.
George: I’m curious about conductor Arthur Fagen and what kind of orchestra does he have.
Mary: We’re very excited for The Turn of the Screw, that we are the first opera this year. We are the first opera to have any instruments other than piano, so we’re thrilled about that. We get to work with a violinist, a harpist and we have two pianists. One is doing double duty with piano and celesta. Five instruments!
George: Wow! We’ve been talking with the governesses. Music by Benjamin Britten based on a story by Henry James. Mary Martin is in her last semester at IU, from Detroit and Chase Sanders, just in her second semester from Philadelphia. They’ll be alternating on stage at the Musical Arts Center on Friday April 2 and Saturday April 3
I’m George Walker