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date: 20 February 2020

Pêcheurs de perles, Les (‘The Pearl Fishers’)locked

  • Hugh Macdonald

Extract

(‘The Pearl Fishers’)

Opéra in three acts by Georges Bizet to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré; Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, 30 September 1863.

Les pêcheurs de perles, which Bizet composed very rapidly in the summer of 1863 when he was 24, was his second opera to be staged but probably the sixth he had composed. It was commissioned by Carvalho for the Théâtre Lyrique, and the contract was signed in early April 1863. The librettists, Cormon and Carré, had recently written a somewhat similar libretto, Les pêcheurs de Catane, for an opera by Maillart staged in 1860. The original setting for the new libretto was Mexico, later changed to Ceylon, and the original title was Leïla. The central dilemma of Act 2, a priestess torn between love and her sacred vows, was based, as was observed from the beginning, on Spontini’s La vestale, Bellini’s Norma and other operas. The problem of how to resolve the drama remained a point of contention right up to the ...

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