‘THE PEARL FISHERS’.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
The moral of Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers is not unlike that of Bellini’s Norma, namely that falling in love with a priestess is risky, and best avoided if one does not want to be burned at the stake.
Bizet’s opera is one of the many works composed in the 19th century’s current European trend of Orientalism or Exoticism. In this opera the Orient is represented not by a gypsy femme fatale, as in Carmen, but by a Ceilonese one – distant enough from Europe’s so-called intellectuals so as not to be blamed for lack of authenticity.
Lotte de Beer’s direction and Marouscha Levy’s sets turned Bizet’s lyric opera into a gimmick- studded event. Their obsessive attempt at modernization, at the cost of good taste, effectively diverted the audience’s attention from the plot to marginal happenings.
Stage assistants rushing purposelessly to and fro on the stage, removing collapsed structures and moving them in again, film artists – if this is what they were supposed to be – filming singers on stage, video art screened on the stage, and no end of other irrelevant items were more confusing than amusing. The last thing that seemed to have interested the director and set designer was whether Bizet would have liked this production.
The redeeming feature of this performance was Bizet’s inspired music. Its caressing melodies and exciting harmonies were a consolation prize. His leitmotif, recurrent use of the first aria’s melody throughout, until the opera’s very end, was reminiscent of Richard Wagner.
The cast was mostly first-rate. As Zurga, Nikola Mijailovic’s dark-timbered baritone was authoritative and appealingly resounding. In the role of Nadir, Alexei Dolgov’s soft tenor sounded emotionally intense and expressive. Their duet and Nadir’s aria in Act I were among the performance’s highlights. Cristina Pasaroiu, as Leila, disappointingly did not achieve her male lovers’ level. Rather than identifying with the role of this gentle, fragile character, she seemed intent on demonstrating her forceful, assertive and rather shrill soprano.
Conducted by Steven Sloane, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion pointedly emphasized dramatic moments and emotional events, and created high tension.