Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon, the opera tells the story of how two men’s vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess.
The Pearl Fishers is an opera in three acts by French composer Georges Bizet (Carmen) to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. It was Bizet’s first operatic success, originally performed on 30 September 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, but achieved worldwide recognition in the mid 20th century.
Highly respected conductor and musicologist, Richard Divall, spent twenty-five years as the Music Director of the Victoria State Opera and five years as Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia. He conducted the first opera ever staged in the State Theatre at the Arts Centre Melbourne and is an internationally recognised music scholar.
“The Pearl Fishers is a vastly successful opera, featuring the most glorious vocal music and an incredibly exotic story. Bizet was a young man writing about young love,” says Divall. “It is an opera with instant charm and magic, I have never tired of it.”
Directed by Melbourne Opera’s Director of Productions Hugh Halliday, who has directed for all of Australia’s state opera companies, after seven years as director for the English National Opera, he will direct two casts in four strong roles, working with some of Melbourne’s most accomplished singers.
Leila, priestess of Brahma, is played by sopranos Lee Abrahmsen and Barbara Zavros, with tenors Brenton Spiteri and Robert Barbaro sharing the role of fisherman Nadir. Playing Zurga, the head fisherman and third element of the love triangle are Phillip Calcagno and Michael Lampard. Eddie Muliaumaseali’i and Matthew Thomas will perform the role of Nourabad, the high priest of Brahma.
Lee, Barbara and Brenton are the three most recent winners of Australia’s most prestigious singing competition, the Herald Sun Aria, continuing Melbourne Opera’s mission to bring the best of young talent to the forefront.
Characters Nadir and Zurga sing the magnificent friendship duet, In the Depths of the Temple (Au fond du temple saint), a celebrated rare male duet, generally known as The Pearl Fishers Duet. It is one of the most famous numbers in Western opera, and was featured in Peter Weir’s iconic 1981 Australian film, Gallipolli.
The orchestral parts of the duet are repeated throughout the opera, depicting the triangular relationship between the three protagonists, communicating the value of friendship between the two men, higher than their love for the woman.
Melbourne Opera is Victoria’s busiest professional opera company, performing Fidelio, The Merry Widow, La Traviata, Cosi Fan Tutte and a sell-out Australian premiere of Wagner’s Rienzi in 2013. Rienzi was repeated in February due to popular demand, followed closely by a restaging of their critically acclaimed production of Madame Butterfly.
The Pearl Fishers
The Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Season: 19 – 30 September 2014
Alexander Theatre – Monash University, Clayton
Performance: Saturday 4 October 2014
For more information, visit: www.melbourneopera.com for details.
Image: Robert Barbaro, Barbara Zavros and Brenton Spiteri prepare for Melbourne Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers