Georges Bizet

Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers)

Dec 31 - Feb 4

Don’t miss the production the New York Times hails as “the sleeper hit of the Metropolitan Opera season... a dream cast... Sensitive and insightful production... Theatrical magic... Diana Damrau brings brilliant coloratura agility, radiant sound and charisma galore to the role of Leila. Mariusz Kwiecien is an ideal Zurga... Matthew Polenzani sang his haunting aria of remembrance with wonderful lyrical tenderness – if you think it is impossible for a tenor to cap phrases…with melting, pianissimo high notes, report to the Met to hear how this is done superlatively... If only [Bizet] could have seen this production.”

Bizet’s gorgeous opera of lust and longing set in the Far East returns to the Met stage for the first time in 100 years. Soprano Diana Damrau stars as Leïla, the beautiful Hindu priestess pursued by rival pearl divers competing for her hand. Her suitors are tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, who sing the lilting duet “Au fond du temple saint,” which opera fans know and adore. Director Penny Woolcock explores the timeless themes of pure love, betrayal, and vengeance in a production that vividly creates an undersea world on the stage of the Met. Conductor Gianandrea Noseda brings his romantic flair to the lush score from the composer of Carmen.

Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Additional funding from The Annenberg Foundation; Mr. William R. Miller, in memory of Irene D. Miller; and American Express

Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Additional funding from Mr. and Mrs. William R. Miller

Co-production originally created by English National Opera

Read Synopsis Read Program
  • Sung In
  • French
  • Met Titles In
  • English
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Estimated Run Time
  • 2 hrs 29 mins
  • House Opens
  • Act I 48 mins
  • Intermission 30 mins
  • Acts II & III 71 mins
  • Opera Ends
New Production Dec 31 - Feb 4

This production has completed for the season.

Be sure to check out our remaining productions on the season list.

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Cast

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A scene from Les Pêcheurs de Perles

World premiere: Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, 1863. Few operas can match the sheer lyric beauty of Bizet’s youthful The Pearl Fishers. Critics at the time were not in favor of it but the audience was swept up in the ravishing score tinged with the allure of a mythical South Asian setting. The drama itself remains within the conventional standards of the day, with a love triangle complicated by the true friendship of the two men involved in it. Although not performed frequently, the opera successfully stands on its own when appreciated for its unique atmosphere, rather than compared to the composer’s later masterpiece, Carmen, or held up to modern notions of dramatic plausibility.

Creators

Georges Bizet (1838–1875) was known as a brilliant student and prodigy, but his works only found lasting success after his untimely death—most notably in the case of Carmen, which premiered to very mixed reactions three months before he died. Eugène Cormon (1810–1903) was the pen name of Pierre-Étienne Piestre, a French dramatist and prolific librettist whose works are mostly forgotten today. His collaborator on Les Pêcheurs de Perles was Michel Carré (1821–1872), who also co-created the libretti to Gounod’s Faust and Roméo et Juliette and the play that formed the basis for Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

Production Penny Woolcock

Set Designer Dick Bird

Costume Designer Kevin Pollard

Lighting Designer Jen Schriever

Projection Design 59 Productions

Movement Director Andrew Dawson

Georges Bizet

Composer

Georges Bizet

Setting

A scene from Les Pêcheurs de Perles

The opera is originally set in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) in non-historic “ancient times,” signifying an exotic land with a mythical and romantic aura. The Met’s new production places the action in an unspecified locale in the Far East.

Music

In addition to its striking lyrical expression, the score is filled with surprising and delightful features throughout. The important role of the chorus is evident from the opening number, with its extraordinarily beautiful middle section for men’s voices. The orchestral writing is equally sophisticated, especially in the subtle touches of instrumentation. But highest honors must go to the remarkable solos and ensembles that have made the opera impossible to forget, chief among them the celebrated duet for the tenor and baritone, “Au fond du temple saint.” Its abundant melody miraculously encompasses a profusion of diverse sentiment, from religious ecstasy to exalted friendship to sadness and loss.

Met History

Before the 2015–16 season, Les Pêcheurs de Perles had only received four performances at the Met. Three of them, in 1916, starred Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe De Luca, who sang the haunting duet “Au fond du temple saint.” This popular excerpt has also been heard frequently in Met concerts over the years, performed by Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes, Roberto Alagna and Bryn Terfel, and others.

Les Pêcheurs de Perles