The Pearl Fishers

Dates: 2 August 2004
:Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

An opera by Georges Bizet in Concert co-produced with Vancouver Opera

Reviewer: Ed Farolan




Brett Polegato
Brett Polegato is Zurga

The Gala Festival Opening of Festival Vancouver's 2004 concerts was a not too well-known opera, Les Pecheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers) of French composer, Georges Bizet (1838 -1875). Although Bizet was regarded as a composer of concerts, later on, his operas made him famous.He is best remembered for his opera Carmen.

During his three years in Rome Bizet wrote many compositions, although only four survive, including the opera buffa, Don Procopio (not performed until 1906). Les pêcheurs de perles was commissioned by Leon Carvalho, director of Theatre-Lyrique through an endowment established to support the winner of the Prix de Rome which Bizet won in 1857 sharing it with Lecocq for the one-act operetta Le Docteur Miracle.

Les Pecheurs de Perles was originally set in Mexico but then changed to Ceylon. The first act opens with Zurga (Brett Polegato) being elected chief of a community of pearl fishers in Ceylon. He is deeply attached to a young Indian hunter, Nadir (Merc Hervieux), who arrives just as the community welcomes a virgin priestess Leila (Nathalie Paulin). But Leila is the mysterious woman both men have foresworn in order to preserve their friendship.






Although it would have been better visually to see this opera as an opera instead of opera-in-concert mode, still the singers were able to project the storyline, thanks also to the surtitles above the stage which were translated from the original French while the singers performed. Polegato is impressive with his deep, powerful baritone. "L'orage s'est calmé" was sung with such emotion it won a well-deserved round of applause. As Nadir, Hervieux had the sound of a Domingo but without the power and certainly without the stage presence of the charismatic Spaniard. In Nadir's well-known aria "Je crois entendre encore," he makes an awkward transition to high notes meant to be effortlessly floated, but which was hardly audible. The High Priest Nourabad, baritone Alain Coulombe sang appropriately, in tune with his stern and authoritative role.

But the singer who stood out from these four was award-winning soprano Nathalie Paulin. She played Léïla not as the helpless temple-maiden one might imagine, but rather full of strength. Her command of vocal line and the frequent trills and leaps in her singing style impressed this gala night's Vancouver audience. The Vancouver Opera Chorus under the direction of Leslie Uyeda also gave this Bizet opera the honor it deserves.


2004, Ed Farolan