Why is the Pearl Fishers not being performed too often at the best opera houses all over the world? And why did the first ever production in Israel had to wait that long? The answer is rather obvious: the plot is thin, the love triangle is banal and expected; the music, with the exception of some highlights, is not more than pleasant.
So any new production of the opera is facing serious challenges, begging for special action and for relevance to the 21st century. It gets all of that it in a most unusual way by the ingenuity of director Lotte de Beer, originally designed for Theater an der Wien. She created a totally new story that runs parallel to the original libretto: We are placed in the heart of an ultra-modern TV reality show. The next development in every episode of the story is being voted upon by the audience at home, the results shown “live” on a big screen. TV crews, with the excellent Insung Sim as their field correspondent, are all over the place. And the climax is the viewers themselves (the opera chorus, in our case) who are visible at the background, each family located in its own department of a huge beehive, representing all walks of life: Old and young, bohemians and religious, etc. At first, you get the impression that too much is happening on the stage, distracting your attention from The Opera. But once you get used to the idea it becomes an integral and even amusing part of the show. More conservative opera goers may raise eyebrows, but the audience in Tel Aviv seemed to love it.
Back to the opera itself, the other pleasant surprise of the night was soprano Cristina Pasaroiu in the role of Leila. This young talent has it all: beautiful voice, clear and powerful and her stage presence is glowing as well. I would love to see her again in a more demanding role of the operatic repertoire. The tenor Alexei Dolgov as Nadir and the Britone Nikola Mijailovic did well both, although the latter one was a bit too frozen on the stage. Conductor Steven Sloane and the orchestra performed Bizet’s score beautifully.