Tuesday, October 7, 2008

PEARL FISHERS in Washington

An unpretentious production that tells this improbably but touching tale -- a Ceylonese Phantom of the Opera, my daughter pointed out to me -- with good singing and colorful if not overly imaginative sets and costumes. What's not to like? Especially since, to my great delight (though to the groans of Urtexters, I'm sure), conductor Giuseppe Grazioli opted for the crowd-pleasing return of the great "Oui c'est elle" melody at the end of the Nadir-Zurga duet, rather than the lame "Amitié sainte" ending the was (they say) Bizet's "original intent."

Nora Amsellem as Leila, Charles Castronovo as Nadir, and Trevor Scheunemann as Zurga all gave satisfaction. Scheunemann is the journeyman of the group, and did not even attempt the high note at "Et son chant qui plane sur nos têtes" -- in fact that whole passage was taken down -- but he has a pleasant light baritone voice. So do forty gazillion other young American singers, which might be his main problem right now.

Castronovo managed Nadir's stratospheric tessitura not quite like Gedda or Kraus, but who can demand that? He didn't go into ridiculous falsetto either. Amsellem was in good voice and very feisty (though I could have done without her mock-Indian head motion during her curtain call).

Keep an eye on Denis Sedov, the young Russian bass who sang the thankless role of Nourabad. He had impressive heft, volume, and dark tone.