Georges Bizet is famous mostly for the opera "Carmen" but his earlier opera "Les pêcheurs de perles" ("The Pearl Fishers") has its fans particularly because of its famous tenor-bass duet "Au fond du temple saint" and its almost-as-famous tenor aria "Je crois entendre encore".
As with much of 19th century French opera, "Pearl Fishers" has an exotic locale, in this case, early Ceylon (I'm not sure how early.) which is now Sri Lanka.
This DVD was recorded at the new Teatro La Fenice which was once again rebuilt after a fire ("Fenice" refers to the phoenix which is reborn from its own ashes. The first Fenice was built after the loss of another theater, not by fire, but the 1st and 2rd did indeed burn down, the 2nd apparently due to arson in 1995. Coincidentally, arson features strongly in this opera.) "The Pearl Fishers", premiered in 1863, suffers from an inferior libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. It's subject matter involves the usual love triangle of the soprano, tenor and bass and, of course, nowadays commentators have wondered who the real love couple is! Be that as it may, the excellent Annick Massis is the soprano Leïla who would have to compare favorably with most others who have recorded the part. And she is easily the standout here. But Luca Grassi is quite good as Zurga as is Luigi de Donato as Nourabad, a priest of Brahma.
The tenor Yasu Nakajima is another story and most reviewers have reacted to him in a generally negative way. His sound was hollow in the first act and that, unfortunately, includes the duet and his famous solo. But I do feel that once he started singing with Massis, there was a startling improvement and he really began to sing out.
The dancing seemed little more than an advanced exercise class but it served its purpose. The costumes for the men and most of the women, seemed rumpled and unattractive.
The lighting was generally all right but not flattering in the case of Massis with its heavy shadows. The sets were quite serviceable and the production was good as a whole.
Recommended with reservations.
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