The Pearlfishers

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The Pearlfishers
Photograph: Keith Saunders

Opera Australia celebrates its 60th anniversary with a dramatic new retelling of a Bizet classic

Even if you’ve never heard of The Pearlfishers, then no doubt you’ve still heard the duet 'Au fond du temple saint' ('In the depths of the temple') – one of opera’s most recognisable arias. The story surrounding it is less known; Bizet (Carmen) composed the music to accompany an oriental fantasy set in ancient Ceylon.

In this production, director Michael Gow has brought the story to the colonial era, and heightened the dramatic gravitas of the story by re-casting the main characters as exploitative colonialists employing locals in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to dive into dangerous deep waters in search of pearls. The onstage talent alone is worth buying a ticket: Australian soprano Emma Matthews takes the lead role of priestess Léïla. Other leads include Australian/Argentinian José Carbó and Russia’s Dmitry Korchak.

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