Michigan Opera Theatre opens its spring season with a tale of fate, loyalty and forbidden love. George Bizet’s
“The Pearl Fishers” runs from April 14-22 at the Detroit Opera House, in a production with the wildly colorful sets and costumes of fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. Set on the island of Ceylon in the ruins of an Indian temple, the opera is Bizet’s most successful aside from Carmen and noted for its exotic orchestrations and famous tenor-baritone duet.
Last produced by the company in 2004, The Pearl Fishers will be sung in French with English translations projected about the stage. Brave pearl fishermen Zurga and Nadir recall the pact they made not to pursue Leila, the woman with whom they were both in love. A veiled virgin arrives to pray for the fishermen on the eve of their upcoming expedition, but her true identity remains hidden. When she finally reveals herself as Leila, she pits the old friends against each other in a deadly love triangle. The opera includes the celebrated friendship duet, “Au fond du temple saint.”
American soprano Leah Partridge (14, 18, 21) appears as Leila, returning to the company after last singing the role of Roxane in the world premiere of David DiChiera’s Cyrano. American Sarah Joy Miller (20, 22) returns to alternate in the role, after appearing in last spring’s Rigoletto. On the heels of his first album, to be released later this month, American tenor and rising star Noah Stewart (14, 18, 21) returns to the company as Nadir. He alternates in the role with American Jesus Garcia (20, 22), returning after his last performances in 2005.
MOT Assistant Music Director Suzanne Mallare Acton conducts, with staging by Australian director Andrew Sinclair; he last staged the same production for the company in 2004. The opening night performance will be broadcast live on WRCJ 90.9 FM, with commentary beginning at 7 p.m. with Dave Wagner. WRCJ-FM will also broadcast “MOT Unmasked,” Sunday, April 8, at noon, when David DiChiera will provide commentary and background about “The Pearl Fishers.”
The company was deeply saddened by the death of conductor Mark Flint earlier this month, who was scheduled to conduct this production. A musical sharing of memories in honor of Maestro Flint will be held following the final performance on Sunday, April 22. The event, open to the public, will include performances by many artists who have enjoyed being part of Flint’s productions at MOT over the years.
Opera tickets for students and young professionals, ages 18-40, are available on Wednesday, April 19, at a reduced price, with a reception following the performance. Visit www.MichiganOpera.org/Access. A free opera talk begins one hour prior to each performance. Ticket prices range from $29 to $121. Tickets may be purchased by calling 313-237-SING, online at www.MichiganOpera.org, or in person at the Detroit Opera House box office (1526 Broadway, Detroit). Tickets may also be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster outlet, or by calling 800-745-3000. Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers Saturday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m.