Exposing an audience in Vermont – Pearl Fishers

MIDDLEBURY, VT – Everyone knows Georges Bizet’s Carmen, the most famous opera in the world. But Bizet’s first opera is less well-known, and Vermont audiences will get a chance to see The Pearl Fishers in a full production marking the seventh season of the Opera Company of Middlebury.

Written when the composer was only 25, The Pearl Fishers is a tale of passion and betrayal, set long ago on the shores of Ceylon. But director Douglas Anderson is giving the work a fresh contemporary spin.

“I’m not particularly interested in doing this as a period piece. The relationships seem very modern to me. A woman shatters a friendship between two men, leaving one devastated and alone. You don’t want to distance this material by putting everyone in ancient costumes. You want the audience to see these characters as real, contemporary, vibrant people.”

Mark Shapiro returns as Music Director, with an orchestra made up of members of the Burlington Chamber Orchestra.

In the central role of Leila is Suzanne Kantorski, who triumphed as Mimì in the 2008 OCM production of La bohème. “Suzanne is not only a world-class soprano, she’s a great actor,” says Anderson. “She’ll be dazzling in this role.”

Auditions were held in New York in December, resulting in a professional cast from all over the country. “Even the chorus is made up of professionals this year,” says Anderson. The role of the Pearl Fishers chorus is unusually large, and Anderson wanted to make sure he had superb voices in the ensemble. “They’re virtually a fifth character in this opera.”

One of OCM’s beloved traditions is Meet the Singers, which will be held at the Middlebury Inn on Sunday, May 23. The 5 pm reception gives everyone a chance to meet the singers and welcome them to the community. Each of the singers then presents a favorite aria. “We love this event,” says Anderson, “but it’s always great to see how much the singers value it. They travel to a strange town to sing, and suddenly, because of this event, they feel connected and honored.”

Tickets for The Pearl Fishers (June 4, 6, 8, 10) are $40 and $35. Tickets for both events may be purchased on-line at www.townhalltheater.org, at 802-382-9222, in person at the Town Hall Theater Box Office (Monday-Saturday, noon-5 pm).