No print slot this time for this review of a recent Met Live in HD broadcast. It was quite a sociable occasion with a large attendance. The front of house team, under Peter Shanahan at the Odeon Waterford did a good job distributing a synopsis to all and there was even cake in the interval. Prosecco next week please:)
Next in the diary: Puccini's Turandot
Review: The Pearl
The Met production of Les Pecheurs de Perles broadcast on Saturday drew a larger audience than usual to the Odeon in Waterford. To date, only Lehar’s Merry Widow has proved to have more pulling power than Bizet’s exotic potboiler based on a love triangle between rival fishermen and a Hindu priestess. The opera hasn’t been performed at The Met for a century and its’ ‘rarity’ tag earned it a slot at Wexford in 1971. Beyond one lollipop, would there be enough to sustain us over an evening?
Curtain up revealed a mesmerizing underwater tableau where three aerialists simulate diving for pearls, a triumph of modern stage machinery and the art of video projection. This coup-de-theatre gave way to an intriguing set - a ramshackle waterside village on stilts crammed with a chorus in oriental peasant costume. The muted hues were brightened with twinkling lights set on many levels and depths. The familiar operatic duet, ‘Au fond du temple powerfully sung by the well matched hunky duo, baritone, Mariusz Kwiecien and tenor, Matthew Polenzani as friends and rivals, Zurga and Nadir. Leila (Diana Damrau) glides in by boat to take up the position of village vestal virgin. The stand out moment was when Nadir, alone on stage reveals that despite an oath, he and Leila have had a liaison and in je crois entendre encore, he sings an aria of rapture and yearning with such tenderness and superb high pianissimos that you could sense the audience melt.
They resume their romance but are discovered. Leila’s lapse is blamed for a tempest and both are condemned to death. Zurga relents and contrives to allow their escape. The Act 3 grimy office looks like the set of a Cold War drama and seems at odds with the rest of the production.
With a superb cast and stunning visual effects, the tension was maintained over 2 ½ hours. The Met Orchestra under Noseda gave a convincing account of Bizet’s score. There are many rare operas that one is glad to see once. I ‘d like to see this one again and it got a thumbs up from the Waterford audience. Brief blips in transmission reminded us of the power and fragility of the technology allowing us to share the thrills of a great house with our transatlantic counterparts. With a tea-time slot, we were home in time for MOTD.
Broadcast on RTE LyricFM on Jan 16th available on www.rte.ie/LyricFM
Next Met LIve in HD transmission via Classical Arts Ireland Puccini Turandot Jan 30th