A unique and rare opera gem comes to life at Houston Grand Opera from January 25th until February 8th. Composer George Bizet’s masterful work, The Pearl Fishers, transports audiences into a fantasy full of friendship, love and community.
Houston Grand Opera will premiere The Pearl Fishers opening January 25th and running until February 8th. The production is an extraordinary one, boasting an international cast, colorful set design, and rich music, such as the ‘friendship duet’ which has been performed by world famous singers including Andrea Bocelli. This French opera is also a rare one as it’s not usually performed, so Houston opera fans have a unique opportunity. In true Houston Grand Opera fashion, the company brings audiences a beautiful production of one of opera’s greatest gems.
It’s a gorgeous representation of composer George Bizet’s talent and his ability to mold music into colorful and emotional masterpieces. You may recognize his work from “Habanera” in Carmen, however, The Pearl Fishers exhibit Bizet’s ability to fill a magical stage with just as magical music.
The opera transports us to a fantastical island of Ceylon. It plays with the ideas of love, community, strength, and vulnerability through its community and romantic interests of those on the island. In a love triangle between the leader of the fishing village named Zurga, his friend Nadir, and a priestess named Leila, we understand the lengths one will go to for love and friends. As the opera progresses, we learn more about each characters’ backgrounds and situations. For example, Leila struggles with her love life and her position in the community as a priestess. The show reveals to us the power of friendship and love, as well as the dramatic consequences for both.
Joining the cast as the priestess Leila is Andrea Carroll, who has performed with various companies including the Vienna State Opera, Washington National Opera, as well as served as a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. She boasts several honors such as First Prize at Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition and Second Place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (New England Region).
Carroll adds dimension to not only her character but the story as a whole. She notes, “One of the most interesting aspects to me is the pull of religion and the divine. Leila is battling with her love for Nadir and her commitment to her vocation as a priestess. In addition to that, the betrayal of her vows is a deep affront to the villagers and community– who, as a whole, are a deeply faithful and religious people….The religious and cultural aspect of the storyline is, to me, just as important as the romantic one.” Viewing the show holistically, she portrays a character who balances both her romantic and cultural life.
Carroll is tasked with exposing the “strength and fragility,” as she puts it, to Leila’s character development. Audiences will witness Leila’s struggles in Carroll’s powerful artistry, including her emotional performance of “Comme Autrefois” which translates to “as before”. The production is full of indulgently emotional moments like this, breathtakingly beautiful and masterfully executed in Bizet’s work. Carroll also describes how HGO staff breathes vibrant life into this piece, “The music is absolutely stunning, the sets are colorful and atmospheric, and it’s a chance to experience Bizet in a completely different way than Carmen.”
When she graces the stage for The Pearl Fishers, this will be one of many performances shared with the HGO. She reflects on HGO’s generosity, “I started working there when I was 21 years old, sang my first big roles there, and really learned what it was to be a singer. It has been the place where I’ve grown up as a person and performer, where I’ve had the space and time to explore my voice and my craft, and where I’ve built some of the most important and incredible friendships and bonds.” She also describes that 2019 is HGO’s year, considering they are back in their home at the Wortham Theater Center.
2019 presents brand new opportunities for both Carroll and HGO. With productions like the rare The Pearl Fishers and upcoming events including Don Giovanni and The Phoenix, the 2019 season is bursting with exciting productions. She urges theater-goers to seize the opportunity in saying, “…they may not get another chance to see it! Since it is such a rarely performed piece, I would suggest seeing it while you can.”
You can experience The Pearl Fishers at Houston Grand Opera in the Wortham Theater Center from January 25th until February 8th. The opera will be sung in French with projected English translation. Ticketing information can be found here.
Feature Image Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg Photography.