The Pearl Fishers

Bizet's The Pearl Fishers

Friday, October 13, 2017 at 7:30pm & Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 2pm

Student Night at the Opera Performance on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7pm

The Historic Valentine Theatre - Conducted by John Baril - Directed by Bernard Uzan

Each day, the pearl fishers of Sri Lanka risk their lives in the pursuit of beauty, but love proves the more dangerous quest. Passion complicates loyalty and duty in French composer Georg Bizet’s moving and beautiful opera. The lush tropical setting will be created by an innovative, fully-staged, production designed by director Bernard Uzan and featuring projected imagery by Michael Baumgarten. An acclaimed cast, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and the Toledo Opera Chorus, will be led by conductor John Baril in his Toledo Opera debut.

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The Pearl Fishers



First performed on September 30, 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris

Setting: The island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in ancient times.


The fishermen are preparing for pearl diving season and the village has elected Zurga as their King. He welcomes Nadir, a friend that he has not seen in many years. Long ago, these friends promised to put aside their love for the same girl in order to keep their friendship. The priests of the temple of Brahma (a Hindu god) arrive, bringing their new priestess who has been chosen for her purity and goodness. The priestess is veiled, hiding the fact that she is Leila, the very same girl Nadir and Zurga renounced many years ago. Zurga orders the priestess to remain isolated on a cliff, without friends, without lovers, and to sing so that the gods may kept happy, ensuring the safety of the village’s fishermen; if she does not she will be cursed and put to death. Leila hears Nadir’s voice and immediately recognizes it. She still loves him and knowing that he is in the village brings fear to her heart. She composes herself and pledges to fulfill her duties as priestess. Nadir has also recognized Leila as being the lost love he has so often dreamed about. As he hears Leila singing the evening prayer, Nadir declares his renewed love for her, which she returns.

It is late in the evening. The pearl fishermen have safely returned with their catch, and the High Priest, Nourabad, thanks Leila for her devotion. She reassures Nourabad of her fidelity by telling him that, when she was a girl, she saved a man who was fleeing brutal pursuers, by hiding him in her home. When they came to find him, she bravely told them nothing, and the man was saved. To thank her, this unknown fugitive gave her a necklace that she never removed. Nourabad leaves and Leila’s thoughts turn to Nadir. She knows he is near, hiding in the forest, and waiting to come to her. She sings of her days gone by, and of her love and


Nadir sings from the forest with a serenade of love. Nadir climbs over the temple walls to be with Leila. She tries to resist him but cannot and they agree to meet each night in the shadows. Nourabad discovers Nadir leaving the temple and, calling to the village’s people, he declares that the temple has been disrespected. The people cry for the lovers to be put to death, and they are about to carry out their threat when Zurga enters and declares that he alone will judge their fate. Zurga is about to let Leila and Nadir go when Nourabad commands her to lift her veil and reveal her identify to everyone. When she does, Zurga recognizes Leila as the girl he renounced for his friendship with Nadir, and in his jealous fury he condemns them both to death as the people sing for mercy to Brahma.

A storm breaks overhead, a sign of the sea’s wrath now that the priestess Leila has been disgraced. Zurga is alone in his tent. He laments that he has condemned his friend Nadir to die at dawn. Leila, accompanied by guards, enters to plead with Zurga for Nadir’s life. Unsuccessful in securing Nadir’s release, and resigned to her fate, Leila asks him to give her necklace to her mother once she is dead. Zurga recognizes it as the one he gave to the child who saved his life so long ago. To repay this debt, he helps the lovers by setting the village on fire. The fishermen are distracted and, despite the attempts of Nourabad, the lovers escape. Zurga is left to accept the consequences of his sacrifice, as the final curtain falls.

Danielle Pastin (Leila)

Praised by Opera News as having “one of the most sheerly beautiful voices on the scene today,” soprano Danielle Pastin’s upcoming engagements include Verdi’s Requiem with Dayton Opera and DCINY in Barcelona and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Countess Almaviva) with Pittsburgh Opera, plus covering Nedda in Pagliacci at the Metropolitan Opera. Pastin has performed the world premieres of Robert Paterson’s Three Way at Nashville Opera; Ben Moore’s Enemies, A Love Story (Masha) at Palm Beach Opera; Henry Mollicone’s Gabriel’s Daughter (Lucinda) at Central City Opera; and Markus Fagerudd’s Free Will (Gazardiel) at Savonlinna Opera Festival. Other highlights include her 2011 Metropolitan Opera debut in The Queen of Spades (Masha) followed by Carmen (Frasquita) in 2012 and 2013; Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath (Rosasharn) with Pittsburgh Opera; and leading roles at Santa Fe Opera, Manitoba Opera, Nashville Opera, Arizona Opera, Northern Lights Opera Festival, Austin Opera, and Annapolis Opera. For more information, visit

Yi Li (Nadir)

Yi Li is quickly gaining attention in the lyric tenor repertoire. Last season he sang in Huang Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted, Alfredo (La traviata) with Finger Lakes Opera, Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Nashville Opera, and joins the esteemed roster of The Metropolitan Opera for productions of Manon Lescaut, Roméo et Juliette, and Der fliegende Holländer. Highlights from Mr. Li’s recent seasons include the role of Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Intermountain Opera Bozeman and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Malcom (Macbeth) with Middlebury Opera Company, and Cassio (Otello) at The National for the Center Performing Arts in Beijing. In 2014, Mr. Li was a Grand Final Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.


Luis Ledesma (Zurga)

Baritone Luis Ledesma established his career in Europe and in the United States after studying at The Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and winning the Pavarotti International Voice Competition. Last season, Mr. Ledesma made his role début as Alvaro (Florencia en el Amazonas) with New York City Opera, reprised the role of Sharpless (Madama Butterfly) with Palm Beach Opera, and Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia) with Opera San Antonio and Astoria Music Festival. North American engagements have included the title roles in Macbeth and Rigoletto, Marcello (La bohème), Scarpia (Tosca), Tonio (Pagliacci), Gérard (Andrea Chénier), Valentin (Faust), Jack Rance (La fanciulla del West), Germont (La traviata), and Augustino in the world première of Pepe Martinez’ mariachi opera El Pasado nunca se termina with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and San Diego Opera.

Kevin Langan (Nourabad)

American bass Kevin Langan has earned a sterling reputation as a leading performer in opera and concerts with international audiences. Mr. Langan has been a company favorite with San Francisco Opera for over 30 years, and he recently became the first artist in the 88-year history of the company to reach the lofty level of 300 career performances in leading roles of 43 different productions, beginning with Samson et Dalila through critically acclaimed performances of Timur (Turandot), Colline (La bohème), Ramfis (Aïda), Padre Guardiano (La forza del destino), Henry VIII (Anna Bolena), Sparafucile (Rigoletto), Sobakin (The Tsar’s Bride), and Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte). Mr. Langan has been singing professionally for 39 years in leading roles with many of the world’s leading opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Saito Kinen Festival (Japan), Maggio Musicale (Florence), Royal Flemish Opera (Antwerp),  Netherlands Opera, and literally just about every opera company in North America over the last four decades. Toledo audiences will remember Mr. Langan as Don Basilio in last year’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette.

John Baril, Conductor

John Baril regularly leads critically acclaimed performances of symphonic and choral music, ballet, opera, operetta, and musical theater in notable theatres worldwide. In 2006, Maestro Baril was appointed the first Music Director at Central City Opera, where he had progressed through various leadership roles since 1992. Under his baton, the company enjoyed numerous acclaimed performances spanning a wide repertoire including the regional première of Adamo’s Little Women; a sold-out revival of Carmen; Pagliacci and Goyescas; Les contes d’Hoffmann; Madama Butterfly; Massenet’s Cendrillon; West Side Story; and a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Also for Central City, he led performances of Don Giovanni; La bohème; Il barbiere di Siviglia; La traviata; Heggie’s Three Decembers and Dead Man Walking; and a triple bill of Gianni Schicchi, Die Sieben Todsünden, and Les mamelles de Tirésias.

Bernard Uzan, Stage Director

Bernard Uzan’s extensive background in the performing arts includes work as a general director, artistic director, stage director, artist manager, set designer, librettist, educator, actor, and published novelist. As a stage director and producer, his 400 productions have won numerous awards and appeared on the stages of more than 100 opera companies throughout the world in such cities as Charlotte, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Catania, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Mexico City, Miami, Monte Carlo, Palermo, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santiago, Seattle, Zurich, Toronto, Vancouver, and Erfurt, where his recent production of Carmen was voted Best Production of the Year. In 2008, his novel The Shattered Sky was published in both French and English by Enigma Books and became Mr. Uzan’s first English language published work. His blog, The Wooden Sword, has an avid fan base and will soon be collated to create his second published novel. Mr. Uzan has directed several productions for Toledo Opera including Faust, Lucia di Lammermoor, Roméo et Juliette, and last season’s Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Nigel Burgoine, Choreographer

Nigel Burgoine is the Artistic Director for the Ballet Theatre of Toledo. A classical ballet instructor and choreographer, he is a graduate of the Royal Ballet School and former Principal Dancer with the London Festival Ballet.   Mr. Burgoine has danced around the world: in Australia, Brazil, Africa, and throughout Europe in principal roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet to name a few. He is the past Artistic Director of Toledo Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet, as well as the past Director of the British Ballet Organization. Mr. Burgoine implemented education programs for dancers and communities in cities in Norway, Spain, England and the United States, was the founder of the London Festival Ballet Education Team, and served as director of the education unit of the London City Ballet and the Dallas Ballet. Mr. Burgoine has choreographed productions of The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Carmen, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Coppélia and Aladdin.

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