This opera has several memorable
melodies but is extremely difficult to make work on stage. Santa Fe has
done a remarkable job of making this into a legitimate theatrical
The problem with the opera is that the major duet and the tenor's big aria are both based on occurrences from the past. A method for integrating the chorus and the set to give these two scenes the same effect as a cinematic flashback sequence was wonderful, as was the
treatment of the opening scene with actions to make sense of the need for an election by acclimation for a new leader of the pearl fishers.
Nicole Cabell as Leila was wonderful. She has a good enough figure to pull off the role of a beautiful woman under the veil, and her technical abilities allowed her to sing the end of act I lightly with magnificent trills. Eric Cutler is that unusual combination, a tall tenor with an understanding of the French mezzo voce so necessary for the big aria. The baritone, Christopher Magiera, sounded as if he was having some allergic problems during the first act. He does not have the large voice often heard in the duet Au fond du temple saint; in many recordings the baritone has to hold back in the duet and last night Mr. Cutler was the one who had to soften his sound. His aria which opens the third act and the following scene with Leila,
showing his being torn between love for his boyhood friend and his jealousy of the love Nourrabad has found with Leila worked well with the staging. The chemistry between the three principals was very good on stage. The bass role is the most cardboard-cutout-role
of the four soloists, a Brahmin priest who is inflexible. Wayne Tigges made the best of a role which does not invite sympathy from the audience.
The chorus was extremely fine, both on-stage and in their off-stage work. The choreography used for the chorus during the flash-back scenes showed the work that these young singers
go through in their summers at Santa Fe. The orchestra was fine with some of the woodwind passages especially beautiful.
All in all, a good first night for me.