Arts & Entertainment

The Pearlfishers

Photo: Keith Saunders

Award-winning theatre director Michel Gow returns to Opera Australia to direct this new production of Bizet’s much-loved work The Pearlfishers.

His decision to cast the three male characters as European was to emphasise the colonial aspects of the story set in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), as well as to improve on a very poorly constructed libretto.

For instance, in the last act, the librettists pull a rabbit (actually, a necklace) out of the hat in what is called a ‘deus ex machine’, or a contrivance, to save Leila’s life.

Inspired by the writings of Orwell, Conrad, Leonard Woolf and Brecht on the East, Gow turns Zurga (originally head fisherman) into a pearl dealer, Nadir (a fisherman) becomes a game hunter and Nourabad (high priest of Brahma) is a racketeer.

The score does not specify a particular period, but Gow sets this production in 1860 at the height of colonialism in the East.

This production is perfectly cast, with rising star Ekaterina Siurina as Léïla, José Carbó as Zurga, Pavil Breslik as Nadir and Daniel Sumegi as Nourabad.

From the moment she sings her first note, Siurina reflects her rigorous Russian training. With supreme confidence, she performs the role of the goddess Léïla, whose songs will protect the pearl divers in their hazardous occupation, while also conveying the passion of a mortal woman deeply in love.

The voices of José Carbó (baritone) and Pavol Breslik (Italian tenor) blend divinely in the famous duet in the first scene, while Daniel Sumegi conveys the arrogance of exploitative Nourabad in sonorous bass tones.

Treat your ears and eyes and go see this interesting and lovely production. (ID)

Until Mar 12. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. $44-$330. Tickets & info:

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