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Opera Abbreviated: The Pearl Fishers

Diana Damrau as Leila in a new production of Bizet's "Les pêcheurs de perles."
Kristian Schuller
Metropolitan Opera
Diana Damrau as Leila in a new production of Bizet's "Les pêcheurs de perles.""

The Metropolitan Opera presents Georges Bizet's Les pecheurs de perles  (The Pearl Fishers)  live in HD in movie theaters world wide on Saturday, January 16 at 1 pm.

Over 30 years ago I worked as an intern at the New York City Opera, as that late lamented company announced a new production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. ​The opera had last been staged, by the august Metropolitan, back in 1916. Three performances starred Enrico Caruso and Freda Hempel, and even these two didn't prevent a box office flop.

I guess public taste evolved between 1916 and 1980.  I walked into work of a late fall morning to see lines at the box office winding down Amsterdam Avenue. The New York City Opera had another hit on its hands.

The Met's new production of The Pearl Fishers is the company's first in 99 years!

In fact, people had been writing to the Met for years asking for a revival of this tuneful French opera by the young Georges Bizet, written pre-Carmen. ​The standard reply had been,  "We couldn't sell it with Caruso!" 

Phooey. Les pecherus de perles is a beautiful opera. What's not to love:

The public loves a tune, and Bizetknew what he was doing. The plot involves two guys who love the same high-priestess/princess or whatever she is, and a lost necklace. Or bracelet, depending on the stage director. Who cares? Sing along, and enjoy!   

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.