Timely Pearl Fishers in Buenos Aires

Bizet, The Pearl Fishers: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Juventus Lyrica. Conductor: Antonio Maria Russo, Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 24.6.2011. (JSJ)

Director: Florencia Sanguinetti
Sets: Florentino Sanguinetti
Costumes: María Jaunarena
Lighting: Rubén Conde


Nadir: Carlos Ullán / Sebastián Russo
Zurga: Sebastián Sorarrain / Tomas Mirko / Lucas Somoza
Leïla: Virginia Wagner / Laura Polverini
Nourabad: Maximiliano Michailovsky / Román Modzelewski

Juventus Lyrica's Pearl Fishers - Production Picture © Liliana Morsia

Apart from the so called Pearl Fishers duet (“Au fond du temple saint”), Bizet’s work of this name, which he composed aged just 24, hasn’t gained a high level of popularity and few listeners are likely to know much else of it. Which is a pity, as although the storyline is on the weak side, the work contains many dramatic and wonderful musical moments – and particularly as it was presented in this latest production by Juventus Lyrica, by far the most engaging of the three I have seen over the years.

A fairly simple setting served as an effective basis for the three acts of what was a broadly traditional production from Florencia Sanguinetti. Lighting was effective and the dress, like the setting, suggestive of the eastern setting in Ceylon.

Leila was played by Virginia Wagner, fresh from a successful Suor Angelica, and her portrayal was strong and dramatic, although she is less secure in the highest notes. Carlos Ullán acted and sang well as Nadir, as did Sebastián Sorarrain as Zurga, although he was better in the solo parts and tended to be overshadowed in the duets. Maximiliano Michailovsky who played Nourabad has a bass-baritone voice in the making but his diction was poor and needs work.

Antonio Maria Russo seemed to exhibit particular affinity with the music, which maintained an easy flow, and he also drew wonderful sounds from the chorus, which he had trained.

This is only the fourth production of this work in (and around) this city and the enthusiastic reception it was accorded gives the hope that future revivals will be more frequent than they have in the past.

Jonathan Spencer Jones