Jacobs School of Music
A Note from the Managing Director
Good news, friends! Our virtual Exhibition in the fall was a huge success, and our team is gearing up for a stunning main production this year. We thank you all for your support -- our activities wouldn't be possible without you! And thanks, as always, to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music for working with us and helping us continue to provide relevant content.
Our main production this year will look a little different. The safety of our musicians is our top priority, so our final product needed to change a little to fit into our pandemic world. However, I'm happy to report that it may be our best production yet! Stay tuned.
Looking forward to sharing more soon!
Managing Director, NVO
2020-21 Main Production
music by JOHN WILLIAM GRIFFITH II
based on the novel by Upton Sinclair
Based on the novel by Upton Sinclair, The Jungle tells the story of a Lithuanian immigrant family settling in Chicago’s notorious Packingtown at the turn of the last century. Initially full of hope, the Rudkus family quickly realizes that the level of corruption in the meat-packing industry runs deep, and eventually it controls every aspect of their lives. Desperate for respite, they turn to the socialist movement as it sweeps across America, inspiring thousands of working class people to demand change. But their political optimism is in vain, as more hardships befall the family which quickly lead to their demise.
The Jungle presents a number of political issues that still exist in modern debates: the merits of free-market capitalism, the ideologies of socialist democracy, the mistreatment of immigrants, and the role of government in regulating the lives of the people. Sinclair’s original intention in writing The Jungle was to make a case for implementing the ideals of democratic socialism at the height of Gilded Age socioeconomic disparities. As a muckraking journalist, Sinclair sought through his writing to expose the abhorrent and corrupt practices of large corporations that put their workers and the public in imminent danger. Ultimately, he wished to make a case for dismantling a political system that favored the wealthiest of society at the expense of the working class. But Sinclair’s magnum opus is not remembered this way. He said himself, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” Indeed, most Americans remember the book as a reason to become a vegetarian, instead of promoting protections for the working class and catalyzing political reform. As an opera, The Jungle aims once more at the public’s heart, though this time the focus is more directly centered on the plight of the Rudkus family, with less emphasis on the backdrop of the pig-squeals of Packingtown.
- John Griffith