The Pearl Fishers
Oct. 7 and 9
First off, Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) is not about pearl fishing at all. Georges Bizet's also-ran opera, written 13 years before his masterpiece, Carmen, is about people living long, long ago - far, far away - most of whom quite incidentally happen to be pearl fishers.
Gran Wilson as Nadir and Diana Alexander as Leïla in Indianapolis Opera's 'The Pearl Fishers'
Leïla, a beautiful, virginal priestess, occupies the center of a love triangle between young Nadir, one of a company of pearl fishers, and his older friend Zurga, who's just been chosen the villagers' chief.
Soprano Diane Alexander as Leïla - the only female vocalist - dominated the singing, with a clear, evenly-projecting-over-her-entire-registration, emotionally-convincing voice regrettably marred by an excessively wide vibrato. Still, Alexander's strong immersion into the role compensated somewhat. Nadir was sung by IO veteran tenor Gran Wilson a bit more unevenly between bottom and top registers. Baritone Victor Benedetti - an IO newcomer - also sang Zurga unevenly and occasionally closed-in. However, in their famous first-act duet, "Au fond du temple saint" - where they had previously agreed to allow no jealousy to mar their friendship - the two eventually jelled to produce a near-perfect blend. Bass Mark McCrory also made his IO debut singing Nourabad the priest, who tries to keep Leïla on the straight and narrow, but fails. His projection was, as well, less than optimal.
Set designer Boyd Ostroff, making much use of scrims, produced simple but imaginative staging. IO artistic director and longtime conductor James Caraher led members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra quite successfully in Bizet's surprisingly lush orchestration - nowhere better than in "Au fond du temple saint."