Set in a modern day Ceylon, the Met’s new revival of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles was a delightfully exotic romance of uncharacteristic story standards. Penny Woolcock’s production perfectly mingled the secular with the sacred, the grime with the gilt, and enchanted me from start to finish.
The shanty fishing village with its rickety cardboard and tin hovels added a realistic element to the production as did the mix of costumes on the chorus members: while some were dressed in filthy baseball caps and torn overshirts, others bedecked themselves in saris and turbans, just as Southeast Asian tradition dictates.
This opera was a beautiful escape from start to finish. The music perfumed the theater and left a trailing scent as the curtain descended. I especially loved the enchanting tenor/baritone duet, “Au fond du temple saint”.
While the romance of The Pearl Fishers may have started as a typical opera love triangle, the ending was anything but conventional: the man who kept his promise and was faithful to his honor lost everything and the traitorous one, escaping death with the defiled priestess, made out like a bandit. All elements combined, I loved this opera so much that I went to see the encore showing the following Wednesday.
My outfit is one crafted from my closet. Modeling in front of my bedroom mirror, I experimented with different scarves and skirts to come up with an Indian subcontinent look.
Layer upon layer the outfit built itself into a makeshift “sari” that was instantly recognizable by its onlookers. (Weeks after The Pearl Fishers encore, I once again stepped into the far off theater location for the encore showing of Turandot. There I was greeted with inquisitive queries from strangers of vague familiarity: “Were you the one dressed as the Indian the last time ?”)
Of course, I knew I needed to accessorize with gobs of pearls in every shape and size, but also rings of topaz and bangles of gold. The crowning touch was my matha patti headpiece, which was reworked from a cheap, broken necklace.
I think my favorite aspects of this outfit are the ones that came from far away lands ─ the teal and aqua fringed pashmina wrap was bartered at a local market in Afghanistan while the cowrie shell necklace traveled from Tanzania (thank you, Uncle Kim, for the precious gifts !). Just think ─ the shells around my neck came from the Indian Ocean, just like the pearls in the opera !
Toi, Toi, Toi,
Cast and Credits:
Les Pêcheurs de Perles ─ Georges Bizet (1863)
Live in HD air date: January 16, 2016
Leïla ─ Diana Damrau
Nadir ─ Matthew Polenzani
Zurga ─ Mariusz Kwiecien
Nourabad ─ Nicolas Testé
Conductor ─ Gianandrea Noseda
Production ─ Penny Woolcock
Set Designer ─ David Bird
Costume Designer ─ Kevin Pollard
Lighting Designer ─ Jen Schriever
Projection Design ─ Fifty Nine Productions
Live in HD Director ─ Matthew Diamond
Host ─ Patricia Racette