It was the first opera commissioned to the young composer by Theatre Lyrique, the main theatre of the French capital in the middle.
This is the first appeal of Yuri Alexandrov to George Bizet’s work. However, the director has not made the production of world-known opera Carmen, but he produced less famous but no less brilliant opera The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles).
It was the first opera commissioned to the young composer by Theatre Lyrique, the main theatre of the French capital in the middle of the 19th century. It took Bizet only a few months to write the opera. After the premiere Hector Berlioz wrote that the score of the opera “contains a lot of fine expressive moments, full of fire and rich color.” The production fascinates the audience with its melodic richness and dramatic expressiveness.
These qualities of the musical score, as well as the desire to embody rarities of opera on the stage, attracted the director Yuri Alexandrov, known for his extraordinary interpretations of opera plots.
Pearl seekers perform a ritual dance on the seashore. They elect a new leader. He will be the one who enjoys universal respect – the young and strong warrior Zurga. Nadir appears. In childhood, they had a strong friendship with Zurga, but one day, while traveling to the Kandy temple, both fell in love with a beautiful stranger. In order not to become mortal enemies, the friends parted. They swore to each other that they would not seek meetings with an unknown beauty (Leila). Now, having met after long months of separation, Nadir and Zurga do not know who they are – friends or enemies. Nadir returned, confident that he had managed to overcome his passion. Of course, it is impossible to forget the meeting with Leila in the temple, but in the name of friendship, friends again refuse love. A boat with Leila is approaching the shore. Her face is hidden by a long veil. According to ancient custom, every year seekers bring a beautiful girl from distant lands. They believe that while fishing for pearls, the priestess will protect them from evil spirits with her singing. Zurga explains to Leila that her face should remain a secret, and her fate is to refuse love. If she succumbs to a destructive passion, then death awaits her, and if she does everything she swore, she will become their goddess. Taking an oath, Leila notices Nadir in the crowd and recognizes him as her unknown lover. Zurga is surprised by Leila’s sudden reaction. He asks why her hands are trembling, and her heart is beating so hard, because if she is afraid, then she can still leave. Leila vows to fulfill her vow. The priest Nourabad takes Leila to the sanctuary, where she will sing. Pearl fishing has begun... Suddenly, Nadir recognizes in the priestess a beautiful stranger from the temple. His passion flares up with renewed vigor. Nadir realizes that nothing can stop him anymore, because once he has already broken his oath, tracking down Leila and hiding in the dark, listening to her singing.
Night. Nourabad escorts Leila to a secluded and inaccessible place where she can rest. The priest again reminds Leila of the need to strictly follow the oath. Leila says she knows what it means to be true to her word. Many years ago, when she was still a child, a man ran into their hut. He tried to hide from enemies. Despite the threats of the bandits, Layla did not betray him. In gratitude for the salvation, the man gave her a pearl necklace, which she has kept all her life. Nourabad leaves, Leila is left alone. She dreams of love. Nadir suddenly appears. He confesses to Leila that, despite his vows, he can no longer run from love. Leila asks him to leave – their happiness is impossible, because she is a priestess and both of them can face death. Nadir assures Leila that his love is stronger than all given oaths and fears. Leila reciprocates his feelings. The lovers make an appointment for the next night.
Their solitude is suddenly disturbed by Nourabad. He calls the tribe and denounces the criminals. There will be no mercy for them! Nadir tries to protect Leila and take all the blame. Zurga, using her power, wants to save a friend. He orders the release of the criminals. He is the leader, his word is decisive. However, before Nadir and Leila leave, the insidious Nourabad demands that the girl who broke her oath reveal her face, because she has lost the immunity of the priestess. Nourabad tears off the veil from Leila – Zurga recognizes the beauty from the temple. Zurga is furious. He realizes that Nadir has deceived him. He is seized by a thirst for revenge. Leila and Nadir face a terrible death. The gods are angry, they need to make a bloody sacrifice. All in despair appeal to Brahma. Zurga is left alone. He is in a fever. He is tormented by a sense of guilt that blind anger has eclipsed his mind and he sent two of his most dear people to a terrible execution... At this moment Leila is brought to him, who wants to talk to him in private. Leila begs Zurga to save Nadir. Her love is so strong that she is ready to take the place of her lover, since, according to her, she alone is to blame for what she did. She is sure that Zurga will have mercy and forgive, but Leila’s pleas inflame terrible jealousy in Zurga. In a rage, he screams that he loves her as passionately as Nadir. Leila curses him for his cruelty, claiming that for Zurga the crime is not that she broke her oath, but that she chose someone else. In desperation, Leila challenges Zurga, saying that even death cannot prevent their love with Nadir. Nourabad appears to escort Leila to the sacrificial fire. Leila takes off the pearl necklace and hands it to the priest. She asks to give the necklace to her mother. Leila is taken to execution. Recognizing her gift, Zurga snatches the necklace from Nourabad’s hands. Confused, he realizes that it was Leila who was the girl who saved his life...
Day is breaking. The seekers are preparing to perform a ritual ceremony in the name of Brahma. Nourabad welcomes the dawn and the hour of the doomsday over the guilty. However, Zurga interrupts the sacrificial ritual. He reports the news – a fire broke out. He encourages people to leave the captives and go to save their children from the fire. The seekers flee in panic. Zurga frees Nadir and Leila, explaining that he set the arson with his own hands. He convinces Nadir and Leila to hide. The thought of their happiness fills his soul with light. Zurga himself is ready to stay and take all the anger of the tribe upon himself. The seekers are returning. They shout that Zurga is a traitor and drag him to the fire. Nadir and Leila understand that they will not leave Zurga, because they cannot be happy at the cost of their friend’s life. Zurga, Leila and Nadir enter the sacrificial fire. Their love is eternal, nothing can crush it, and it is freed from all earthly passions...
A significant place in the repertoire of the St. Petersburg Opera is taken by the cycle called “Operetta in the Opera House”.
The famous legend of Tristan and Isolde is elegantly played in the libretto.
The performance by Yuri Alexandrov gives the audience a new look at the familiar plot of the most popular Russian opera.