Monday, December 21, 2015

At the Met

The Met is staging Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers (Les Pecheurs des Perles) for the first time in approximately a century. The cast includes Diana Damrau, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecien, and Nicolas Teste.

That's a hell of a strong cast, and quite frankly, it is wasted on Pearl Fishers. I should know; I've seen it, and it is a work best presented as a ten-minute good-parts version, along with Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet and a few other works of that ilk.

Really, when a work drops from your company's repertory for a century, it's a good idea to think about why. It might be a forgotten or neglected masterpiece, or maybe it's just not very good. It's the latter where Pearl Fishers is concerned. It has one good aria, for Leila, one good tenor aria, and one beautiful and famous duet, a typical male-bonding duet.

The opera also has huge cultural-exoticism issues; here's a review of the first bring-up of the production at ENO that discusses this.

So, here's the Met, with a fine group of singers and conductor Gianandrea Noseda. What could they have staged instead?

Well, those four would make a good group in any number of mid-19th century works, but I would have sprung for King Roger, considering that just now Mariusz Kwiecien owns the title role. Polenzani showed more charisma in Tales of Hoffman in SF a few years back than I would have expected and he has a glorious voice, certainly better than that of Saimir Pirgu, who sang the Shepherd in London recently. Damrau might be able to manage Roxana, and there must be something for Teste to do.

Oh, well. Repertory choices, wish I were making them for the Met.


Anonymous said...

I would have thought that the one good aria was Nadir's Je crois entendre encore. It's certainly a gorgeous thing.

I've only seen Pearl Fishers once, in a not very interesting New York City Opera production, and the piece needs all the help it can get. I really think the director should double down on the orientalism, rather than try to mitigate it, and, you know, amping up the homoeroticism of the tenor/baritone friendship couldn't hurt either.

Anyway, I'll probably go to the theater broadcast.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I recall - vaguely - a decent soprano aria, but you're right about the tenor aria! I will amend.

I am going to skip this broadcast!

Paul Pelkonen said...

"Ladies and Gentlemen: In the interest of clarity and sanity, the rest of this movie will not be in Polish."

As much as I love Szymanowski and King Roger....

bgn said...

The Pearl Fishers shows up surprisingly often in the repertoire of provincial American companies. I myself have often wondered whether it would show up so much if it weren't by the composer of Carmen. In a survey I took at OPERA-L back in 2003 of what the members of the list thought the Met should revive, The Pearl Fishers did OK but not great with six votes (http://tinyurl.com/oednmv6)

Anonymous said...

I reviewed a concert performance of that famous duet, reporting that though the singers gave their all to it, I found the music rather dull.

CruzSF said...

I'm conflicted about going to the broadcast. I know of only two people among my friends and acquaintances (even the distant acquaintances) who like this opera -- everyone else has expressed dislike of it -- but I've never seen it or heard it. It might be worth $25 and 3 hours of my life.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I understand, I understand!

I've never seen the Zef Turandot, but the broadcast is at 10 and will thus be opposite a REALLY interesting Wagner Society talk. Suspect I am going to the Wagner Soc.