What is it about good opera that we love? What compels us to watch a performance in another language, supported only musically without spoken dialogue?
I find the opera is an art form in celebration of the ‘heightened’. Everything within it is in an heightened form – Why speak, when you can sing? Why whisper, when you can shout? Why cry, when you can wail? Why smile, when you can rejoice?
Again, the opera – and good opera may I add – allows a person to indulge every facet of their emotional being, and feel a sense of ‘alive’ they may have forgotten some time ago. It forces you to feel, to revel in your emotions, and follow this heightened theatrical journey unfolding before you.
The Pearl Fishers is likely to be one such opera, utilising all of the above elements extremely well.
It was Bizet’s first masterpiece, and will also be sung in French (with English subtitles) when brought to Perth under the direction of Michael Gow, conductor Brad Cohen, and supported by none other than the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) and the West Australian Opera Chorus.
The Pearl Fishers is likely to offer a further enlarged sense of emotional indulgence, given its violent, insatiable, and romantic plotline. It features lust, love, revenge, jealousy, and torment as three friends find the bonds of their friendship and attraction threatened.
In most other art forms (be it TV or movie), when such a love-triangle exists, the usual forms of sincere dialogue and rational thinking occur. In opera however, the emotions are given full reign to come alive, a story line as this, only further extends that capability. E.g. If you find out the woman you’ve always secretly been in love with, had actually had an evening of love with your best friend, and he concealed it from you – Wouldn’t it only make sense to plot his murder? Of course, that’s the opera way.
Act 1 – It’s pearl diving season in Ceylon and Nadir and Zurga (old friends) reunite and reminisce about a woman they once knew. Nadir had an evening of love with this woman, and doesn’t tell his friend – and has been obsessed with her ever since. Long behold, this woman arrives as the accompaniment to another man.
Act 2 – She finds herself locked in the temple and reveals that the necklace she wears is a gift from a man whom she once rescued. Nadir reunites with the woman, and her lover witnesses them. Alas, the lover informs the village Nadir has seemingly ‘betrayed’ the village and death is the penalty. At too much ruckus, Zurga gets involved and calms them, only to learn who the woman is and experience jealousy, which results in proclaiming the death of the woman and his friend.
Act 3 – The woman begs for Nadir’s life and proclaims her love. However it’s the necklace around her neck that catches Zurga’s eye, realising she is the woman who’d saved his life. Realising the calamity, Zurga lies pretending there’s a village fire, allowing Nadir and the woman to escape. The play closes with Zurga awaiting his judgment from the villagers (‘the pearl fishers’) and the woman’s public lover.
With a plot this juicy, riddled in matters of the heart and emotions abound, I expect it will be an absolute delight when the art form that is the Opera brings it to light, as a true indulgence for my emotions.
The Pearl Fishers will be performed at His Majesty’s Theatre on October 25, 27, 29 & November 1, 3, 5. For further information and tickets visit: http://www.waopera.asn.au/2016-season/the-pearl-fishers/