BWW Review: Bizet's THE PEARLFISHERS Is Given A New Interpretation for Opera Australia's 2016 Summer Season
Thursday 21st January 2016, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Director Michael Gow's staging of Georges Bizet's THE PEARLFISHERS brings the story of love, friendship and jealously into Colonial India. The new production which is the third work in Opera Australia's 2016 Summer Season takes the beautiful music and sets in a more realistic world than historically presented demonstrating an understanding of the dangerous pearl fishing industry and the western exploitation of Ceylon.
Gow has opted to stage the work around a run-down coastal temple, weeds starting to insinuate themselves in cracks in the stone and paint long faded. A tree with prayer offerings hanging from its branches grows in the forecourt and a glittering ocean is visible just beyond the sandy beach outside the temple walls. The inclusion of a European leather chair in the courtyard indicates that pearl dealer, Zurga (José Carbó) has set himself up to oversee the festivities of the start of the pearl diving season.
The love triangle plays out between Zurga, his friend Nadir (Pavol Breslik), a hunter in this interpretation, and Léïla (Ekaterina Siurina) a singer whose voice is believed to have protective powers. In addition to the secrets the men hide from each other, the racketeer Nourabad (Daniel Sumegi) adds an additional layer of complexity as he convinces the villagers that Leila's voice is sacred and she must not be compromised which may diminish her "powers". Zurga, Nadir and Nourabad are presented as non-Indian expatriates seeking fortune and escape as they have established themselves in colonial India. Leila is an Indian songstress who has enchanted Zurga and Nadir and become Nourabad's meal ticket.
Siurina has a stunning clear pure soprano with the tenderness of a woman in love and the desperation to save Nadir. Tenor Breslik give an high sweetness in Nadir's recollection of hearing Léïla in a temple years ago when he fell in love with the idea of her. Baritone Carbó is the stronger of the two lovers, vocally, and also injects more honest passion and conflict as he contemplates the fate he has committed his friend too whilst in a jealous rage. Bass Nourabad is the pure villain in the work and his domineering insensitivity is conveyed in his voice as he treats Léïla as a possession and sets the angry mob on Nadir.
THE PEARLFISHERS is beautiful work that represents the European fascination with the exotic. Given that this opera does not have the death, fighting or debauchery as other operas, but themes of friendship, love, jealousy, remorse and forgiveness, this could also be suitable as a good introduction to opera.
January 15, 21, 23, 27, 29
February 5,9, 12, 15, 18, 20 (Matinee), 23, 27 (Matinee),
March 3, 5, 8, 12 (Matinee)
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House.