Label: Metropolitan Opera / Erato
Diana Damrau, Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecień, Nicolas Testé
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
Penny Woolcock, director
Bizet’s rarely heard opera returned to the Met for the first time in a century on New Year’s Eve 2015, in Penny Woolcock’s acclaimed new production. Star soprano Diana Damrau sings Leïla, the virgin priestess at the center of the story.
Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien are Nadir and Zurga, rivals for Leïla’s love who have sworn to renounce her to protect their friendship—and who get to sing one of opera’s most celebrated duets, “Au fond du temple saint.” Nicolas Testé is the high priest Nourabad and Gianandrea Noseda conducts Bizet’s supremely romantic score.
Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perles, set in Sri Lanka, is known above all for its unforgettable duet for tenor and baritone, but it its score is full of delightful and dramatic music. When recently staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York it proved a major success, both for the production by Penny Woolcock and the musical performance, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, with Diana Damrau as the priestess Leïla and, as the two men competing for love, the tenor Matthew Polenzani (Nadir) and the baritone Mariusz Kwiecien (Zurga), with Nicolas Testé (Nourabad). Woolcock’s concept brought the production up to date, with photographic and video references to the 2004 tsunami, and offered a superb ‘aquatic’ spectacle during the overture: the whole stage appeared to be beneath the Indian Ocean and acrobatic divers ‘swam’ down from the surface (located in the flies of the theatre).
"Diana Damrau as Leila is also very attractive as a brunette, her soprano delights with its extraordinary purity and sweetness, the light emission and the weightless guidance of the voice fit well to the ensemble. The corresponding song actually sounds as feisty as the text and music make it seem, the coloratura is truly delicate, with nothing purely mechanical in itself."
German soprano Diana Damrau convinces in the part of virgin Priestess Léïla. She is singing with artistry combined with all her usual enthusiasm. Displayed to significant effect is her impressive range and rounded, fluid tone. Damrau is in glowing, expressive voice, displaying some attractive coloratura in her act one aria Dieu Brahma! as Léïla prays to the Hindu god Brahma to ward off evil spirits and protect the fishermen.
– MusicWeb International