Fishers - May 2006
Roy Atterbury - Kentish Times - 25th
of a love fest triangle
The strange thing about
Bizet's The Pearl Fishers is that it seems to have come from
a completely different pen from that of the composer who created
one of the world's most popular operas Carmen, writes Roy Atterbury.
Indeed, if the work had not contained one of the most loved tenor/baritone
duets ever written, Au fond du temple saint (In the depths of
the temple), perhaps it might not have achieved the popularity
it now enjoys.
Nevertheless, it remains
a fine work that allows for plenty of spectacle and the not unusual
elements of forbidden love, hate and friendship in abundance.
Set in a coastal village in Ceylon, it also is a dream scenario
for costume and lighting designers.
Kentish Opera has performed the work twice in the past few years
and it was welcome news then the highly talented company announced
that it was to mount a revival at the Churchill Theatre.
With over sixty performers,
imposing sets by Enid Strutt and truly superb costumes by Carol
Stevenson, the director, Sally Langford, created a production
that seemed somewhat moodier and darker than had been the case
in previous productions.
Lighting designer, Colin Martin, also appeared to have followed
this route and it was rare for the whole stage to be fully lit
to show off the costumes in their glory.
But this did little to
hide the fact that the production was yet another triumph for
the company. Typically, Kentish Opera uses different principal
singers on different nights to rest their voices and as a result
different audiences might see slightly different interpretations
by the professional principals according to the night they went.
Just how much these differences might have made is something
I will never know.
Certainly, it would have been difficult to find fault with the
artists who appeared on the Wednesday night, with Claire Surman
singing the part of Leila, a virgin priestess who had once been
wooed by two friends (Zurga and Nadir) many years before and
whose relationship had been strained to the limits by their love
of the same woman.
So much so, Nadir (Jim
Heath) had left the village while, in time, Zurga (Michael Fitchew)
had become the head of the pearl fishers who lived under his
influence of the traditional Gods, religions and customs.
When Nadir suddenly returns, he quickly rekindles his relationship
with Zurga, which allows the introduction of the duet. It is
a supremely beautiful example of Bizet's work and the two dingers
produced a sublime version of the piece which drew instant acclamation
from the audience.
Tim Heath has a particularly eloquent tenor voice which was a
joy to hear and he is also a very good actor.
Michael Fitchew made a powerful and effective Zurga and although
his voice 'wobbled' briefly in come of this more demanding arias,
he created a very imposing stage presence.
Claire Surman's soprano
managed to maintain a sweetness of tone that was always able
to generate the required emotional elements to bring depth to
the inner torments of her character. Bass, Paul Hodges, too,
was outstanding as the High Priest.
A feast for the eyes, dancing (directed and choreographed by
Terry John Bates) and large scale production scenes that underwrote
the quality and discipline of the chorus and performers joined
with Mark Fitz-Gerald's highly professional orchestra to enable
Sally Langford's extraordinary artistic direction to make its