Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Pearl Fishers Fire real life

Amazing Pearl Fishers at ENO tonight. Bizet knew little about the Third World, but his imaginary pastiche rings surprisingly true. So many extremes in this opera, Nadirs and Zeniths all over! On one level it's over the top kitsch, on another remarkably realistic, a constant flux between one reality and another. This New ENO production of The Pearl Fishers, at the Coliseum in London, directed by Penny Woolcock, and with set designs by Dick Bird,  really brings out the churning paradoxes that make the opera so turbulent.

For the review, please see HERE. 
What might not come across unless you've travelled a lot in the Third World is just how well observed this production is. Things really do look like that. People really do festoon dangerously long cables to get illegal electricity supplies.. At night, clusters of small lights, constant movement (especially villages on boats). And fires! From cooking stoves, from dangerous wiring. At any moment all can be destroyed. This clip is from a huge fire in Hong Kong in 1953, when 53,000 people were made homeless in one night. This was a big one, but smaller fires happened all the time. I was in a few -- very vivid memories. Plus typhoons, landslides, floods.. Every year. Believe me, this ENO Pearl Fishers is authentic. I've actually lived it.

What's more poignant is that, every one of those people had difficult lives even before they wound up in squatter villages. They were ALL refugees, even middle class and well educated, and they end up in shacks made of cardboard. Sometimes they'd been refugees from one place to the other for the previous 20 years. This affects the way people think. People criticize excess, but for people who are used to everything changing at a moment's notice, it's necessary. To understand the Third World, you have to understand what makes the people. (lots of Chinese movies on this site, not escapist kungfu but about society and people).

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