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This year, the Santa Fe Opera broke with tradition, presenting its operas at 8:30 p.m., instead of the customary 9 p.m. — this is a wise decision. Those attending Georges Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” will be treated to an impressive New Mexican sunset, seen through a large gilt frame that is an integral part of the opera’s impressive set.
From the very first note, it is apparent that the conductor, Emmanuel Villaume, has an excellent feel for Bizet’s music. His fluent, expressive style of conducting brought out a wide range of colors from a versatile and masterful orchestra.
Make no mistake, this opera isn’t “Carmen,” and the tunes might not be as well known, but it was obviously composed by the same man. His characteristic Spanish style is present and although there are times when the orchestration is heavy and the singers fade back to a secondary role, this is short-lived. Bizet gave the singers many moments to shine.
The standout scene of the night is the tenor aria, “Je crois entendre encore,” sung by Eric Cutler as Nadir, a fisherman and ardent admirer of the chaste Leïla. After a slow start, created partially by a slightly incoherent storyline (not unusual for opera; read the synopsis before going), Cutler’s aria shows off beautiful dynamic contrast.
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