ENO’s The Pearl Fishers
Opera & Dance
THIRD time round at the English National Opera, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers is quite delightful. A lovely evening at the opera that can be enjoyed by just about everyone except sniffy opera cognoscenti.
Director Penny Woolcock has tightened things up a lot since her original 2010 staging, cutting out corny anachronisms. Now the piece about two friends in love with the same woman is firmly set in Sri Lanka, rather than colonial Ceylon.
Visually, the production is stunning: pearl fishers dive during the overture, stormy seas are conjured up and tsunami devastation suffered by coastal villages is shown on huge videos.
The opera is not Carmen, of course. But hints of Bizet’s future masterpiece are scattered here and there, fine choruses abutting duets and arias.
Buddy duet Au fond du temple saint sung by head diver Zurga and his friend Nadir may be best known. But there are other glittering gems along the way. Soloists give a good account of Bizet’s romantic pieces, not pretending they’re grand opera, but easy listening.
Soprano Claudia Boyle is convincing as Leila, newly arrived at the village to take her place as the guardian of the pearl fishers.
Snazzily dressed Jacques Imbrailo does well in holding centre stage for most of the piece as village head diver Zurga. Indeed, it’s hard to see why Leila has the hots for his friend Nadir sung rather gloomily by Robert Macpherson.
Much of the opera’s appeal lies in its shimmering orchestration that’s delivered with loving care by German conductor Roland Boer.
• ENO’s The Pearl Fishers has eight more performances until December 2, at The Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2, 020 7845 9300, www.eno.org