The Pearl Fishers was not well-received when first debuted in 1863, but Bizet’s much-critiqued three-act libretto has been transformed by director Penny Woolcock and conductor Roland Boer in this co-production from the ENO and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Set in an underdeveloped Far East village where the only source of income to the inhabitants is the work of the brave pearl fishers, the story follows the love triangle of Zuria, Nadir and the object of their life-shattering obsession, Leila.
The first thing to notice in this production is the intricacy and realism of the set design. Rickety shacks, a backdrop of the ocean, moving fishing boats: this dynamic set is as intriguing as it is beautiful, and keeps the audience captivated throughout. The highlight of the visuals was, however, the underwater world created in the third act. This stunning display evokes the immense sense of disaster that ripples throughout the fictional town, and echoes the disturbed thoughts of our main characters.
The score is dynamic and uplifting: the chorus is almost a wall of sound, providing bursts of energy throughout, and uniting the story’s themes- desire, rejection, loss- through the emotion of these secondary characters. A stark comparison to this is the unique duet moments that pepper the score with delicate harmony. The famous Pearl Fishers duet- demonstrating the doomed loyalty of Zuria and Nadir’s friendship- does not disappoint in this case, but Leila and Nadir’s love-struck moments are just as heart-felt and touching.
This stunning representation is at the ENO until the 2nd December- if you want to be captivated by a strikingly boisterous yet graceful score and a stunning stage design, I would highly recommend The Pearl Fishers.
Find out more & book tickets here.
Written by Jade Phipps.