March 06, 2019

THE PEARL FISHERS’ Captivating Production, Lush Melodies, and Soaring Voices Win Audiences’ & Critics’ Praises

Come in from the cold! Enjoy the balmy breezes and brilliant colors of The Pearl Fishers by young Georges Bizet in Lyric’s new-to-Chicago presentation starring Marina Rebeka, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecień as the passionate characters caught in a deadly love triangle. Polenzani and Kwiecień sang these roles in the Metropolitan Opera's The Pearl Fishers, which has just been nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording — don't miss them here in Chicago!

Here are just some of the pearls of praise: 

First-class singing heats up the house...colorful singing-and-dancing extravaganza...dream cast...fanciful two-dimensional set pieces and trunkloads of exotic costumes by English fashion designer Zandra Rhodes...based on authentic Sri Lankan fabric patterns and artworks…. Polenzani and Kwiecień powered their characters' pledge of undying brotherhood elegantly, and the house went wild. But then, one cannot think of a tenor better equipped for this touchstone French lyric role than the Evanston-born Polenzani. He caressed the phrases of the Act I romance...with a seemingly endless column of breath and elegantly tapered head-tones….he made the part very much his own.

“....Rebeka sang luminously as the ethereal Leïla, tracing the delicate coloratura of her Act-One aria with an attractively silvery timbre that took on rich colorations in her middle and lower registers….The superb Polish baritone [Kwiecień gave a ] committed delivery of the aria "O Nadir, tendre ami"...with palpable musical and emotional investment.

“...The Bizet work is the latest addition to the long list of operas — now 57 — that [Sir Andrew] Davis has led in this theater during his remarkable 30-year affiliation with Lyric Opera. His conducting was at all times idiomatic, sensitive to instrumental detail as well as Bizet’s arching phrases (nice solo flute and harp) and supportive of the singers….3.5 stars.” — Chicago Tribune

“...this being Bizet, the story unspools with one glorious melodic line after another, including a series of arias that fully showcase the voices of its principals, and choral sequences of great beauty. The Lyric cast succeeds on every level on the vocal front, and is backed by the transcendent playing of the orchestra, under the direction of Sir Andrew Davis…..beautiful voices and impressive acting….the intense friendship duet...was a magical blending of baritone and tenor voices….Rebeka’s long and ardor-driven aria...was magnificent, ideally capturing her enduring passion for Nadir, which is then fully realized in the pair’s erotically charged duet….The 52-person chorus, under chorus master Michael Black, brought a gravitas and anxiousness to each of the scenes in which the community gathered in fear, reverence, and outrage. Bravo to them, and cheers for Bizet….Recommended.” — Chicago Sun-Times

“The themes of love, jealousy, rejection and forgiveness remain ever timely….Les pêcheurs de perles is a tuneful, richly melodic opera, chockablock with rousing choruses, grateful solo opportunities for all three principals, and the most ineffably beautiful tenor-baritone duet in all opera…..with a supreme trio of first-class singers set against a lively and colorful production, this is about as vocally and musically successful a Pearl Fishers as one can ever hope to experience. It doesn’t hurt, of course, to have Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecień in the lead roles of Nadir and Zurga….the opera’s famous male-bonding duet, ‘Au fond du temple saint,’ comes early in the first act and set the standard for the vocal excellence of the afternoon. Polenzani’s hushed opening stanza and Kwiecień’s dark tone complemented each other beautifully; the rapt duet rose to a soaring, glorious climax with the two men receiving an extended ovation.

“...Kwiecień sang with dark saturnine tone and brought dramatic intensity to the mercurial Zurga’s conflicted emotions….Marina Rebeka was a fitting and fully understandable object of desire as Leïla….the Latvian soprano brought tonal refinement and flexible singing to the role.

“...Pearl Fishers is a real opera opera, and Lyric duly provided the scenic spectacle with a blindingly colorful, energetic production. With its mix of choruses, dancing and solo set pieces, one can hardly imagine a better show than Lyric’s Pearl Fishers to make a dubious musical-theater friend into an opera aficionado.” — Chicago Classical Review 

“For a living, pulsating definition of Romanticism, look no further than the 25-year-old Georges Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers….an exotic love poem set in ancient Ceylon, its soaring lyricism consummated in one man’s ultimate sacrifice offered to another in the name of both love and friendship. The whole seductive package — remote enchantment, grand singing, evocative costumes, stylized sets — comes together in a splendid production at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 4 stars.” — Chicago on the Aisle

Lyric presentation of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers generously made possible by

Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel

With additional support from an Anonymous Donor

Matthew Polenzani's appearance is generously sponsored by Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O'Leary.

Production owned by San Diego Opera.

Photos: Todd Rosenberg