With OperaQ’s season of The Pearlfishers fast approaching, we can’t imagine a better way to familiarise yourself with this world-adored classic, than listening to the soul-stirring melody of Au fond du temple saint (The Pearlfishers Duet).
The Pearlfishers Duet is one of those tunes you simply can never forget or fail to be stirred by. I must have heard it a hundred times, because I’ve directed this opera many times, but there’s something about its flowing, mellifluous tune combined with the fact that it’s two men singing about a painful memory and reaffirming their friendship that’s just so touching. And it has a very clever structure – the tenor sings first, then the baritone, then one and then the other, as this magical vision comes into view, and then when they finally sing together …oui, c’est elle… with the orchestra swelling beneath them, it’s like taking off in an aeroplane.
You can feel the audience relaxing into their seats, going “ahhhh”. I strongly believe that its popularity in Australia is connected with that great Australian “mateship” ethos, which is no doubt why Peter Weir used it for his film Gallipoli.
And maybe the fact that it’s set on a beach, at sunset, it evokes a particular sensuousness that Bizet’s music captures so well, and which we Australians know very well. I can’t wait to hear it sung by Aldo di Toro and Grant Doyle, both of whom are wonderful singers and beautiful actors so I know they’ll infuse it with lots of emotion.
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