Les pêcheurs de perles. Beyond time and space


Coming back from three-year trip around Italy, young composer dreams to announce about himself in Parisian music world. However, premiere of Les pêcheurs de perles at the Lyric theatre on 30 September 1863 did not live up to expectations. Opera was poorly received, same as his all following theatrical works, up until Сarmen – his last masterpiece. “Certainly that the path that I’m trying to pursue is strewn with thorns without roses”, — forsees Bizet.

La Scala staged a new edition after the composer’s death, in 1886: in Italian language with a drastically altered “dramatic” ending. Next year Les pêcheurs appeared in Covent Garden, and in 1889, it was back on French stage. Same year opera was held for the first time in St. Petersburg at a private enterprise of Alexei Kartavov. At the Bolshoi Theatre, premiere took place on 3 December 1903 at New Theatre building, and 1906 it was transferred to the main stage. Antonina Nezhdanova (Leïla), Leonid Sobinov (Nadir), Alexander Gerasimenko (Zurga), and Matvey Goryainov (Nourabad) performed principle parts; Conductor was Ulrich Avranek. Opera various versions (including final trio which was deliberately written by Benjamin Godard) were published and became the basis for future productions.

In 2002 based on manuscripts from French National Library, conductor Brad Cohen created a new version, which is close to original one. Published by Edition Peters, it produced interest to the opera and added new wave of performances. Les pêcheurs on the Chamber stage will be shown based on this particular version (Conductor – Alexei Vereshchagin). It is directed by Vladislavs Nastavševs, leading young director both on Latvian and Russian contemporary stage (Gogol-center, Theatre of Nations). His message to the genre of opera – natural continuation of work in the theatre not only as a director, but also as set designer, and author of music, in addition to creation of music performances. His first opera performance, which he prepares in collaboration with costume designer Elisey Kostsov, has gained clearly recognizable image being “at the junction of minimalism and performance”.

Vladislavs Nastavševs. Photo by Pavel Rychkov.

Vladislavs Nastavševs: It seemed to me that over the edge romanticism and sweetness to some extent which exists in the music – will sound best within the rigorous setting. For the sake of it, it was worth to forgo oriental motives and any visual allusions and to create neutral space instead, which is distanced from specific time and location. This ‘pure’ space is ideal for meditation, and creation of sacral atmosphere. On stage – commune which shares the story. Four main heroes are a part of commune as well, as a primal consciousness. Gestures have significant meaning: the turn of a head is an event itself. Through limitations, minimalism that is close to performance, we strive for a bigger freedom of expression. Our goal is not to illustrate events, but to give an opportunity to imagine the story. So there is a very interesting journey ahead of us.

The premiere performances will be held on 10,11,12 and 13 December.