Bizet Les pêcheurs de perles opened last week at the Theatre an der Wien. It was broadcast on ORF so if you're canny, you can track it down. It's definitely worth the effort, and could become a favourite. Diana Damrau sings Leila. She's exquisite. She rises to the challenge of the high notes with fierce, bright singing - exactly as one imagines the fearless Leila might do. The richness in Damrau's voice also adds an earthy sensuality to the part. She's matched by Dimitri Korchak (Nadir), Nathan Gunn (Zurga) and Nicolas Testé (Nourabad). All very strong performances, supported by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir (Erwin Ortner). Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien.
Les pêcheurs de perles is extravagant fantasy. Audiences in Bizet's time would have no truck with the modern nonsense that opera must be historically accurate. Musically, this is 100% French Grand Opera with all its over the top excess. The singing is glorious, and, if the orchestra is a little on the wild side, that's quite in order. I haven't seen the production yet (Lotte de Beer) but the Austrian press says it treats the protagonists like they're in a TV gameshow. Which, in a way, maybe they are? Nadir and Zurga compete for the pretty girl, and the passive audience of peasants enjoy the glitz and glam, unaware that the joke will be on them when Zurga torches the village.