Pearlfishers at Folkoperan in Stockholm – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Georges Bizet|Lyrics:Eugene Cormon and Michel Carré
Première at Théâtre-Lyrique i Paris den 30 september 1863.
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was two boys who were best friends, as inseparable as brothers. One day they both fell in love with the same girl. The girl, Leila, however, fell in love with one of the boys which made the other boy bitter. Railing against the unfairness of life, he ended the friendship and tried everything in his power to separate the lovers. He made his friend swear an oath of friendship and to promise not to pursue the girl.The oath was sworn, but they parted on bad terms. Nadir, who swore to give up his love, immediately broke his vow and set off in search of Leila. Zurga filled the emptiness left by the lost friendship and unsrequited love with the aphrodisiac of power and became chief of an entire people. Leila resolved to dedicate her life to guiding people towards the path of righteousness.
20 years later
ZURGA RULES HIS PEOPLE with an iron fist with the aid of a myth that the pearl is the key to all worldly happiness. However nature has turned against them. The water is poisoned and the people live in perpetual fear. Zurga therefore summons an unknown woman, a priestess of nature, to pray for the people and give them hope by warding off evil spirits and safeguarding them from storms. Nadir returns, having spent many long and lonely years in the wilderness. The former friends try to renew their friendship but remain entrenched in their memories of the past. They are roused from these memories by the arrival of the priestess. Nadir recognises her as the woman he loved all those years ago. At the very moment Leila steels herself to confess she has vowed to forsake love and friendship for the good of the people, she recognises Nadir.
NADIR SEEKS OUT LEILA in secret. She tries to persuade him to abandon her to her fate, otherwise they both risk being put to death.However Nadir refuses to accept this and they both realise that they are prepared to sacrifice everything for their love. They are betrayed by Leila’s spiritual companion, Nourabad, himself keen to grasp power.He summons the people and whips them into a fury over the crime that has been committed. The people demand the pair be punished by death but Zurga intervenes. He rebukes the people for circumventing their elected leader and is on the point of reprieving Nadir and Leila when Nourabad forces Leila to remove her veil. Zurga recognises Leila and his world comes crashing down. He sentences both of them to death.
LEILA SEEKS OUT ZURGA to beg him to spare Nadir’s life. Zurga confesses that he has always loved her. Leila curses Zurga for his selfish motives and for his jealousy. Nourabad, who has now assumed power summons the people in order to effect the death sentence. Zurga throws himself at Leila’s feet who then realises he was the boy whose life she once saved. Leila hands back the necklace Zurga gave her in thanks for rescuing him. Zurga sees he is in debt to Leila. To create a diversion to help Nadir and Leila escape, he starts a fire. As Nourabad and the people flee in panic. Nadir and Leila take the opportunity to get away.However, realising they have been betrayed, Nourabad and the people return. But Zurga has already drunk the poisoned water. He sacrifices himself to give Leila and Nadir a chance to start life afresh.