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Opinion: A mythical love story

November 25, 2011
George Creegan - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

PITTSBURGH - "The Pearl Fishers" by George Bizet is a mythical love story set in ancient Ceylon about Nadir, Zurga - a tenor and baritone, respectively - and Leila, a soprano whom they love. Zurga is king of the Pearl Fishers and Nadir is a hunter.

The opera recently was presented by the Pittsburgh Opera.

Zurga is Nadir's best friend and they had both been secretly in love with Leila, the high priestess of the Brahma temple, but the two friends sacrificed their love for that friendship. Their pact is recalled in their duet "Au fond du temple saint" (In the depths of the temple).

When Leila is carried in on a red covered planquin disguised as a veiled priestess, Nadir recognizes Leila. They meet later to renew their love, but they are discovered by Nourabad, the high priest of the Brahma temple, and sentenced to death.

Zurga also recognizes Leila as the young girl who once saved him, so he gives them their freedom. Nadir and Leila return to the temple where Nadir tells Leila of this continuing love in the aria "Je crois entendre encore" (I believe in our love again).

In Act 2, Zurga remembers his promise and pact with Nadir, in the aria "O Nadir tendre ami, de mon jeune age" (O Nadir, tender friend of my youth).

Leila is returned in a cage and begs Zurga for Nadir's life and gives him a necklace from her mother. Zurga recognizes it as a gift he gave a young maiden for saving his life, so he orders the pair released from the funeral pyre. Zurga tells them he has set the village on fire and that they should go and save the children and the elders. When he gives them his boat and tells them they are free, Nourabad has Zurga shot.

There are four lead singers in "The Pearl Fishers." They include Zurga, the baritone, Craig Werm, a Pittsburgh resident artist alumnus; Sean Panikar, tenor, as Nadir, also a Pittsburgh resident artist; Leah Partridge as Leila, soprano, a resident artist; and Andrew Gagestad as Nourabad. They were perfectly cast by General Manager Christopher Hahn.

Partridge, a member of the New York City Metropolitan Opera, studied voice at Mercer and Indiana University. Gangstad also is a member of the Metropolitan Opera and has sung throughout the United States.

Music Director Antony Walker celebrates his sixth season at Pittsburgh Opera and recently made his debut at the Metropolitan in "Orfeo and Eurydice" by Gluck.

For tickets or information about "Hansel and Gretel" in January, "Tosca" in March, "Abduction from the Seraglio" in March and April, call (412) 456-6666 for log on to

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