Parisian composer Georges Bizet was enrolled in the Consevatoire at the age of nine and won a premier prix in solfège within six months of his arrival. He later received prizes for his skill as a pianist, gaining particular renown for his sight-reading, and won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857. At this time, opera theatres in Paris were reluctant to stage new works rather than the established classics, meaning that Bizet’s operas did not achieve much success during his lifetime, despite the fact that today two of his operas are considered among the best ever written.
The premiere of Les Pêcheurs de Perles took place in 1863 and the opera was brought back to Paris in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle of that year. The story, set in Ceylon (known today as Sri Lanka), centres on the love between the priestess Léïla and the fisherman Nadir, who is envied by his fellow fisherman and friend Zurga. The idea of the ‘exotic’ is a prominent feature of the opera and can be heard in the unusual instruments of the percussion section, the dance rhythms, and the use of the harp. The qualities of the ‘exotic’ evoked here are more similar to those of the Mediterranean than of Ceylon, although it is known from Bizet’s letters that his original inspiration for the setting was Mexico. The opera contains the famous friendship duet, ‘Au fond du temple saint’, known as the Pearl Fishers’ Duet.
The recording features Desirée Rancatore and Celso Albelo in the roles of Léila and Nadir. Rancatore, a leading interpreter of the light, lyrical roles in Italian opera, debuted as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro at the Salzburg Festival at just 19 years old. She has since won critical acclaim for her performances as Adina (L’elisir d’amour), Gilda (Rigoletto) and the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute), all of which she has sung worldwide. Tenor Celso Albelo has performed all over the world in operas such as Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammemoor and Falstaff, and was awarded the Opera National Prize (Spain) for Best Newcomer in 2008 for his performance in I puritani.
- A brand new recording of Bizet’s opera Les pêcheurs de perles, recorded in 2012.
- Conductor Daniel Oren counts among the best Italian opera conductors.
- Contains extensive notes on the work.