Opera Scotland

Pearl Fishers 2017Opera Bohemia

Read more about the opera Pearl Fishers

Stylish impact as Pearl Fishers returns

Scotland's touring company Opera Bohemia gave a dozen performances throughout the summer of their new staging of Bizet's popular romantic piece The Pearl Fishers. This was most welcome as it is fifteen years since this attractive opera was last performed in Scotland, in this case by Edinburgh Grand.

First impressions.

It would be difficult to imagine this, of all works, without a chorus, and a professional chamber team of eight singers has been recruited. Some are still at the Conservatoire and are already excellent performers in their own right - sopranos Stephanie Stanway and Chrisni Mendis; altos Stephanie Maitland and Lynn Bellamy; tenors Christian Schneeberger and Connor Smith; basses Nicholas Cowie and Jack Sandison.

As usual, the orchestral score has been reduced to a duo of piano (Geoffrey Tanti) and violin (Feargus Hetherington). At some performances a small group of ten musicians, the Opera Bohemia Ensemble, play. Led by Feargus Hetherington, this band consists of a string quintet - 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass and wind quartet - flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. The ensemble is completed by a keyboard able to provide the especially important harp sounds.

Key roles

Among the leading roles are several familiar names - Alistair Digges conducts and Douglas Nairne, the company's other co-founder, sings Zurga. Welsh tenor Thomas Kinch is welcome back, while the soprano and bass are perhaps less familiar. One note on the musical presentation is perhaps worth mentioning, in that they perform the trio at the end, just as the lovers are to run off. This is by Benjamin Godard rather than Bizet, and is nowadays usually omitted as inauthentic. However that is hardly a big issue in the circumstances where this attractive work is rarely heard here in any form.

Performance

Your reviewer caught the performance at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk, at a time which fell conveniently on the gap evening during the Monteverdi cycle at the Edinburgh Festival. This was the first of the performances with the instrumental ensemble, and it created a very different sound world. The Old Kirk, which is a classic rectangular auditorium, has a good acoustic and was packed with an enthusiastic audience of over two hundred. The opera, which may not be a blazing dramatic masterpiece, nevertheless contains a series of immediately attractive melodies. The co-ordination of the woodwinds with the voices provided particular enjoyment.

Monica McGhee gave an excellent performance, with a sweet-toned, clear soprano and having no difficulty with the coloratura required. She also communicates clearly in French. As the High Priest Nourabad, Michael MacKinnon has far less to do than the others, but he projected well and used his height to dominate the stage effectively. Thomas Kinch has all the notes for what is an awkwardly high role, and was able to produce some beautifully sweet soft singing. Douglas Nairne also achieved that in his aria, though most of his part requires a more forthright style of production which he also demonstrated. The famous duet launched the evening in a rousing fashion.

The staging by Lissa Lorenzo, in Magnus Popplewell's pillared set, worked well. Costumes were colourful and enhanced the period setting.

The lighting in such venues is always challenging and on this occasion was rather murky, with faces frequently shadowed. This will no doubt be improved at later venues.

All in all, it was good to hear this thoroughly enjoyable piece again and see Opera Bohemia in such good form, maintaining their usual high standards.

Performance Cast

Nadir a fisherman, friend of Zurga

Thomas Kinch

Zurga leader of the fishermen

Douglas Nairne

Léïla a priestess of Brahma

Monica McGhee

Nourabad High Priest of Brahma

Michael MacKinnon

Performance DatesPearl Fishers 2017

Map List

Gaiety Theatre, Ayr | Ayr

25 Jul, 19.30

Strathpeffer Pavilion | Strathpeffer

26 Jul, 19.30

Town Hall, Lossiemouth | Lossiemouth

28 Jul, 19.30

Whitehall Theatre | Dundee

29 Jul, 19.30

Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy | Kirkcaldy

16 Aug, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Dumfries | Dumfries

17 Aug, 19.30

Memorial Hall, Lanark | Lanark

19 Aug, 19.30

St John's Renfield Church | Glasgow

20 Aug, 19.30

St Cuthbert's Parish Church, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

22 Aug, 19.30

MacRobert Arts Centre | Stirling

23 Aug, 19.30

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock | Greenock

25 Aug, 19.30

Aberdeen Arts Centre | Aberdeen

26 Aug, 19.30

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