Exotic ‘Pearl Fishers’ Dives into Opera in the Heights

Island Lovers Overcome the Odds

HOUSTON, TX – Opera in the Heights presents Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet in its Houston premiere, an enchanting and romantic story of a love triangle with a fable-like flavor.

The composer was in his twenties when he created this opera full of youthful lyricism and the heart-felt expression of love and longing. The setting of the story in the island nation of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) fed the 19th century’s fascination with exotic places.

The signature tenor/baritone duet, “Au fond du temple saint,” is one of the most beloved, and tends to be a show-stopper. It is but one of many arias in the opera with a compelling and expressive melody.

In a first-ever collaboration, Dominic Walsh of Dominic Walsh Dance Theater (DWDT) has choreographed several dance sequences for two dancers who will perform to enrich the storytelling.

Sopranos Ani Maldjian and Abigail Dueppen will share the role of Leïla, a Brahman priestess, in alternate night casting; Fabian Robles and Timothy Birt portray Nadir, tenors and lovers of Leïla; Yoon-Sang Lee and Brian Shircliffe are the baritone tribe leader, Zurga; and bass Daymon Passmore sings the role of Nourabad, high priest, in every performance.

“The chorus has a primary role in this opera, and has a lot of rich, expressive music to sing,” said C. Vincent Fuller, Jr., Opera in the Heights Chorus Master since 2004.

Brian Byrnes will direct the action onstage, as he so skillfully did for Don Carlo and last season’s La Bohème. Rachel Smith is the set designer.

Pearl Fishers, Bizet’s most successful opera apart from Carmen, has an exceptionally emotional plot with continuously lyrical, romantic, and just beautiful music!” said Linus Lerner who returns to conduct this production after his rousing debut at Die Fledermaus in November.

A Sunday matinee on April 3 has been added to the pre-planned six performances.  The opera is sung in French with English translation projected above the stage.

Performance dates are March 24, 25, 26, 31, April 1, 2 at 7:30 pm and April 3 at 2:00 pm.  Tickets are $20 – $49 with special prices for students ($10) any time and for seniors ($28) on Thursdays and Fridays in limited seating areas.

Opera in the Heights is a professional opera company that exists to provide a stage for emerging performers and to bring affordable opera to the Greater Houston Area.  All operas are fully staged with orchestra, and English surtitles are projected above the stage. Each evening performance starts at 7:30 p.m. at Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. in the Houston Heights. For tickets, please visit www.operaintheheights.org or call 713-861-5303.

Photographer credits: Gwen Turner Juarez