Not completely bowled over, but worth fishing for...
Les Pecheurs De Perles(The Pearl Fishers) is not Bizet's finest opera, with a story that, while still interesting and emotionally engaging, would remind one of a love triangle that one has seen before and done in a more plausible fashion perhaps. For me that's still Carmen(clichéd answer I know). But hearing the sublime music, and that is not just the famous duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint(the versions by Bjorling/Merrill and Domingo/Milnes are two of my most played pieces of music and renditions on my IPod) but also Nadir's Je Crois Entendre Encore, one would wonder why the opera wasn't performed more often.
I did like this production. I can understand why some mayn't be taken with it, I admit I wasn't completely bowled over, but as to my knowledge the only Pecheurs De Perles available on DVD, it is certainly worth fishing for. Starting with the things that people may be infuriated by, those looking for a traditional approach will be disappointed by the lack of any palm trees and temples. I do prefer traditional staging, but don't mind different staging as long as it is done in good taste.
As far as I know, the staging was not done in bad taste, and while I was think the temple setting should have been there as it is important to the story, I wasn't disgusted by it necessarily and didn't mind the little subtle changes the production made. Some may dislike the choreography, thinking it distracting and too reminiscent of something like Thais. Exotic it is, but I found it enhanced the drama rather than distracted from it.
These weren't the problems for me actually. One was the costumes, which were often very unflattering, especially with Nadir and Naroubad. The biggest flaw though was Yasu Nakajima as Nadir, I wouldn't say he is as terrible as some make him out to be but I didn't care for him as a whole. Dramatically he seemed more concerned about watching the conductor and prompter rather than engaging with his character and everyone else on stage with him. As for vocally, he gets better, but to start it had a very hollow and uncontrolled(in pitch) sound to it.
I was disappointed in the big duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint. People will recognise it as the big tenor/baritone showpiece beloved by many opera enthusiasts. What didn't work were two things mainly. One being that I didn't feel much friendship and affection between Nakajima's Nadir and Luca Grassi's Zurga, the other being simply that the voices aren't very well blended with Grassi having the much stronger voice.
However, the sets are not bad at all, considering the tiny stage. The video and picture quality are excellent, I liked the fading technique used for the likes of Je Crois Entendre Encore, likewise with the sound, apart from some moments of reverberation. Bizet's music is beautiful, and performed with a lush sound by the orchestra and with authority by conductor Marcello Viotti. Of the principal singing, the best is Annick Massis as Leila, her voice is angelic and the whole performance is dramatic, thrilling and moving.
With the men, the most consistent was Luca Grassi's Zurga, vocally strong and sturdy and he comes as affectionate and sympathetic. As Naroubad, Luigi DiDonato has a voice that is firm that always has room for delicacy and heft. All in all, not a great production, but it was interesting and worth the look. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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