Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Pearl Fishers Graces the Pittsburgh Opera Stage

For Immediate Release
October 28, 2011


Debra L. Bell, Director of Marketing and Communications

Office: (412) 281-0912 ext 214 or

Pittsburgh Opera continues 73rd season with splashy, exotic opera The Pearl Fishers

(above: the final scene of The Pearl Fishers. Photo © Ken Howard for San Diego Opera

What: Georges Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles)

Where: Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh

Saturday, November 12, 8:00 PM

Tuesday, November 15, 7:00 PM

Friday, November 18, 8:00 PM

Sunday, November 20, 2:00 PM

Run Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes, including 1 intermission

Language: Sung in French with English titles projected above the stage

Tickets: Start at $10 for all performances.

Call 412-456-6666 for more information or visit

Related FREE Opera Up Close, Brown Bag Concert, and Meet the Artists.

Pittsburgh, PA…After a long absence from the Pittsburgh Opera stage, Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles) returns to the Benedum Center November 12, 15, 18, and 20 in a splashy production from San Diego Opera designed by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes. Audience members will be treated to a “visually stunning and sweet-sounding” [Voice of San Diego] production, with Ms. Rhodes’s colorful costumes and sets, along with dazzling vocals, impressive choruses, swirling orchestral music and exotic dance sequences. The Pearl Fishers, set in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), is a story of friendship and a forbidden love that ends in flames and flight.

Former Resident Artists Sean Panikkar (The Grapes of Wrath, 2008; Dialogues of the Carmelites, 2011) and Craig Verm (The Grapes of Wrath, 2008; The Rape of Lucretia, 2010; Turandot, 2011) take the male lead roles of Nadir and Zurga. They star alongside Leah Partridge as Leïla and Andrew Gangestad as Nourabad, both in their Pittsburgh Opera debuts. Music Director Antony Walker conducts; Andrew Sinclair from Royal Opera House Covent Garden originated this production in San Diego and debuts with Pittsburgh Opera as stage director. Once again Attack Theatre is featured in a Pittsburgh Opera production, as they work with renowned choreographer John Malashock for the exciting dances in Act III.

Pittsburgh Opera’s annual Student Matinee takes place this season during the run of The Pearl Fishers. On Thursday, November 17 at 10:30 AM at the Benedum Center, the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists will star in all four principal roles and engage more than 2400 students from public and private schools, grades 3-12. Before the Student Matinee, educators who wish to bring their students to this fully-staged performance with full orchestra are required to attend the Workshop for Educators on The Pearl Fishers and receive Act 48 hours along with numerous resources to integrate opera into existing lesson plans. Teachers and students receive $10 tickets to the Student Matinee. Resident Artists in The Pearl Fishers Student Matinee include Kyle Oliver as Zurga; Juan José de León as Nadir; Suzanne Vinnik as Leïla; and Adam Fry as Nourabad. Resident Artist stage director Stephanie Havey will direct the November 17 Student Matinee.

Tickets to The Pearl Fishers start at $10, with all performances at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. For additional information or to purchase tickets call 412-456-6666 or visit

Facts about the opera

  • In 1863, The Pearl Fishers had its premiere (12 years before Carmen) at Théâtre-Lyrique du Châtelet in Paris, and had 18 performances, then titled Leïla. It was revived in 1886 (after Bizet’s death) and had its U.S. premiere at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia in 1893.

  • Pittsburgh Opera last presented The Pearl Fishers in 1978 at Heinz Hall with Evelyn Mandac as Leïla, John Walker as Nadir, and Dominic Cossa as Zurga.

  • Zandra Rhodes has designed opera productions regularly since her debut in 2001 with The Magic Flute for San Diego Opera. In addition to The Magic Flute and The Pearl Fishers, she has also designed a production of Aida. She has designed clothing for Debbie Harry, and Kate Moss, and Diana, Princess of Wales, among others.

The story, in brief

Zurga is named chief of villagers; he and his friend Nadir recall how they once competed for the love of Leïla, and then swore on their friendship never to see her again. When a veiled priestess comes to the island to pray for a successful pearl harvest, Zurga promises her a valuable pearl if her prayers work; if not, she will die. That night, Nadir hears the priestess’s voice and recognizes it as Leïla’s: she is still in love with Nadir. The high priest Nourabad warns Leïla that the consequence of breaking her vows is death, and she recalls that she once saved a fugitive, and was given a necklace in thanks. Despite Nourabad’s warning, Leïla and Nadir consummate their love during a raging storm. Nourabad exposes their affair to everyone, and Zurga sentences them both to death. Leïla pleads with Zurga to spare Nadir’s life, but Zurga expresses his love for her and his jealousy of Nadir. Before the execution, she gives him her necklace, and he recognizes it as the one he gave the girl who protected him when he was a fugitive. Zurga distracts the others by setting the camp on fire, and sets Leïla and Nadir free. Nourabad reveals Zurga’s deeds, and Zurga is put to death while the lovers escape.

The Pearl Fishers opens Saturday, November 12 and continues November 15, 18, and 20, 2011. Tickets start at $10. Call 412-456-6666 or visit .

The Pittsburgh Opera 2011-2012 season is generously sponsored by PNC Foundation.

Cast and Artistic Team (cast is listed in order of vocal appearance)

Zurga Craig Verm ** baritone

Nadir Sean Panikkar ** tenor

Leïla Leah Partridge + soprano

Nourabad Andrew Gangestad + bass

Conductor Antony Walker

Stage Director Andrew Sinclair +

Production Sets and costumes from San Diego Opera

Set and Costume Designer Zandra Rhodes +

Lighting Designer Ron Vodicka +

Choreographer John Malashock +

Assistant Choreographer Michael Mizerany +

Hair & Makeup Designer James Geier

Stage Manager Tara E. Kovach

+ Pittsburgh Opera Debut

* Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist

** Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni

Tickets and Group Discounts

Tickets for all performances of The Pearl Fishers start at $10. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call (412) 456-6666 or visit For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213.

Related Events

Opera Up Close: The Pearl Fishers

Sunday, October 30 – 2:00 PM

The George Rowland White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

Opera Up Close is an entertaining and insightful program held on Sunday, October 30, at the George Rowland White Opera Studio in Pittsburgh Opera’s headquarters (2425 Liberty Avenue) in the Strip. Opera Up Close includes an in-depth musical analysis of the opera The Pearl Fishers with Music Director Antony Walker, and a panel discussion featuring stage director Andrew Sinclair and singer Craig Verm (“Zurga”). A reception follows, hosted by the Pittsburgh Opera Guilds. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit

The Pearl Fishers Previews on WQED-FM 89.3 and WQED.ORG/FM

Saturday, November 5 – 1:00 PM; Friday, November 11 – 7:00 PM

Hosted by WQED’s Stephen Baum, and broadcast on radio as well as the WQED website, this The Pearl Fishers preview gives listeners an in-depth introduction to the singers, music and production of the opera. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit

Brown Bag Concert

Saturday, November 12, 2011 – 12:00 PM

The George Rowland White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

(2425 Liberty Avenue)

This one-hour concert begins at 12:00 PM and features the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists in the music of Bizet. The Brown Bag concerts provide an informal introduction to opera, and guests can meet the performers after the concert. Guests are encouraged to bring a lunch. Pittsburgh Opera is grateful to Eden Hall Foundation for sponsoring Brown Bag Concerts.

The Pearl Fishers Student Matinee

Thursday, November 17, 2011 – 10:30 AM

Benedum Center for the Performing Arts

Students in grades 3-12 from public and private schools all over the region are treated to a fully-staged production of The Pearl Fishers with Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists starring in the lead roles, and full orchestra. Teachers earn Act 48 credits and tickets to the Student Matinee are $10. For more information, contact Marilyn Egan at 412-281-0912 x 242.

In-Store Discussion and Cocktail Party with Zandra Rhodes

Monday, November 7 – 6:00 PM

Larrimor’s, Downtown Location

Members of the local design community and students from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh will meet Zandra Rhodes at Larrimor’s and hear from her what it takes to make it as an international fashion designer. A cocktail party follows, where Pittsburgh Opera patrons and members of the Warhol Museum Inner Circle will have the opportunity to meet Ms. Rhodes, the set and costume designer for Pittsburgh Opera’s The Pearl Fishers.

Pre-Opera Talks

Benedum Center Main Floor

Ticketholders are invited to attend a Pre-Opera Talk on The Pearl Fishers one hour before each performance’s curtain in the Orchestra Section (Main Floor) of the Benedum Center. Learn about the composer and the story of the opera. These talks are free to all ticketholders.

Meet the Artists

Tuesday, November 15

Immediately following the opera in the Benedum Lower Lobby

Ticketholders for the Tuesday, November 15 performance of The Pearl Fishers are invited to gather in the Benedum Lower Lobby immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.

Pittsburgh Opera’s 2011-2012 season continues a 73-year tradition of excellence in opera. As part of the Company’s continued efforts to make opera accessible to all members of the community, single tickets for the 2011-2012 season will again start at just $10, with subscriptions starting at just $43 for four operas. Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now.

2011-2012 Season

La traviata October 15, 18, 21, 23, 2011

The Pearl Fishers November 12, 15, 18, 20, 2011

Hansel & Gretel January 28, 31; February 3, 5, 2012

Tosca March 24, 27, 30; April 1, 2012

The Abduction from the Seraglio April 28; May 1, 4, 6, 2012

Single tickets on sale now, starting at $10

Season subscriptions for as little as $43

For ticket information visit our website or call (412) 281-0912

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