French opera The Pearl Fishers on in Adelaide from this week.

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As mentioned in the What’s on in May article,  starting this week (from 12 to 19 May) the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide will put on 4 performances of Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. I had a chat to Christine Rothauser, who is the French language coach for the production. 

You can purchase your tickets here.


Why is this opera so important?

According to all of the polls, it’s the second most performed opera in the world after Carmen, which is interesting because we know that it was a flop as was Carmen in their first performances. It was only after the composer’s death that these operas became popular.


What are the challenges in teaching French pronunciation to opera singers who don’t know French?

In Australia, most singers don’t study languages; the only ones who pronounce French well are Emma Mathews and Grant Doyle but Grant lives in London and has worked with me a lot over the last 30 years. The others work with a coach.


Are there any French speakers performing?

Just one in the chorus, Chris.


Who is this opera for?

It’s difficult to define, in the current version, the general public and young teens: the famous duo as well as several arias peppered through the opera and the chorus plays a large role.


Why must we go to see The Pearl Fishers?

It’s not an obligation but this opera is in contrast to the Italian operas that we have performed in recent years.


It’s an opera composer by Georges Bizet in 1863. How is it still relevant today?

This is a strange question, in my humble opinion we must accept operas for what they are, an escape into the world of dreams and traditions. Apart from modern operas or those by Berg, Janacek and Poulenc, few operas are really relevant but that’s a part of what makes the pleasure of watching a production as we escape into another world. In this show, we go to Ceylon.


How does this production of The Pearl Fishers differ to the one that the company performed in 2010?

Zurga and Nadir in 2010 were in a loving relationship which was interrupted by the dawning of love for Leīla in Nadir’s heart. In my opinion, it didn’t make sense.


It’s a well-known opera, having been performed by the Opera of Queensland last year and by you 7 years ago. How many other French operas are there to choose from and why do you think opera companies like this one so much?

Carmen (Bizet), Roméo et Juliette (Gounod), Dialogue des Carmélites (Poulenc), L’heure espagnole et L’enfant et les sortilèges (Ravel), Platée (Rameau), Don Carlos, version française Verdi), Faust (Gounod), Werther et Manon (Massenet), les contes d’Hofmann (Offenbach).


Because this repertoire offers singers beautiful melodies, a libretto which is often better than that of certain Italian operas and which allows the weaker voices to express themselves fully without having to shout over the orchestra in order to be heard.


Buy your tickets now to see The Pearl Fishers on 12, 15, 17 and 19 May. Have you already seen this opera? Have you seen other French operas?

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