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The OU School of Music pairs with Oklahoma Festival Ballet to present 'The Pearl Fishers (Reimagined)' with COVID precautions within performance

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Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center

The Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center reflecting off of the windows of the Fred Jones Jr. Art Center on Oct. 23.

The OU School of Music and the Oklahoma Festival Ballet will unite the best of opera and ballet in a romantic production of Georges Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers (Reimagined).” 

“The Pearl Fishers” is an opera production that combines live singing with ballet dancing. The plot of the show tells the story of triangulated relationships dealing with love and forgiveness, said Christa St. John, graduate teaching assistant and choreographer of the production.

The production was conceived in the fall of 2019, St. John said, and dance rehearsals started in February of 2020. The production, which originally was set to premiere in the fall of 2020, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The production crew and I met, and we decided to delay the premiere until we could reimagine the production again keeping in mind all of the safety protocols that we needed to enforce,” St. John said. “So the choreography underwent two substantial revisions, which resulted in creating three different versions of the opera.”

To navigate the challenges of adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, the production eliminated all physical interactions between dancers and singers. The live orchestra of the show was changed to a piano, and rehearsals took place in person and via Zoom, St. John said.

The cast of singers, which was reduced to three principal singers with a piano, will be masked and socially distanced during the live performances, St. John said. The dancers will also be masked and socially distanced.

St. John said to protect the cast from COVID-19, the production filmed all the dance scenes in advance. During the live performance of the show, the dance scenes will be projected on stage in conjunction with the live singers.

“We finished filming the dance scenes on March 7, so all of the costumes and the stage were ready significantly early compared to when the live performances will happen so we could film all of the dance scenes in advance,” St. John said.

The design team created an imaginary world with supernatural elements that bring drama and mystery to the opera production, St. John said. During the live performances, the singers will be wearing costumes that are reflective of their dance character.

“For example, the role of Layla, which is the principal female soprano, has a dance avatar. So, some of the scenes will be portrayed through her dance avatar, and some of them will be portrayed through her singing,” St. John said.

Performances of “The Pearl Fishers” will run at 8 p.m. March 18, 19 and 20, and 3 p.m. March 21 at the Reynolds Performing Arts Center. An on-demand video of the production will be available March 26 through May 15.

Tickets can be purchased on the school’s website for $20 for adults, $10 for students and $15 for senior adults plus a processing fee and tax. Tickets at the doors are $30 for adults and $15 for students.

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