The Pearl Fishers

This season, the JCCO together with soloists from JAMD will be performing highlights from George Bizet‘s Opera, The Pearl Fishers. This Opera, written before Carmen, contains some of the most beautiful and touching music that Bizet has written.

The story is rather simple: Nadir and Zurga are childhood friends. Both are brave pearl fishers who risk their lives diving for pearls. They fall in love with the same woman, Leila, but they both vow that nothing would come between them. Zurga is elected to be the leader of the village. A new priestess comes to the village to pray for the pearl fishers. As she sings, Nadir recognizes Leila’s voice and approaches her. This is forbidden love. They both have to be executed. Leila comes to Zurga to beg for Nadir’s life and offers her life instead. Zurga is mad and confesses his love to her. At the very end, Zurga lights a fire, all the people of the village run away and he lets Nadir and Leila escape.

A scene from Act II of the 1916 Metropolitan Opera, New York, production of Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) by Georges BizetA scene from Act II of the 1916 Metropolitan Opera, New York,
production of Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) by Georges Bizet (source: Pictures of Georges Bizet)

This is a classic story of conflicting loyalties: Nadir promised Zurga that nothing would come between them. On the other hand, he loves Leila. Zurga is Nadir’s friend and deep in his heart also loves Leila. His position forces him to execute them. Leila vows not to see men, but is in love with Nadir.

What is the moral of the story? Why do we identify with it so much?
We are all loyal to our jobs, we are loyal to the roles we play in society, we are loyal to our ideologies.
But do we act as we are expected, or do we follow our hearts?
Are we such slaves to our ideology that we forget about people?

Remember the old song from the musical Hair?
And especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
If you would like to read more about those subjects I welcome you to visit my website at

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1 Response to The Pearl Fishers

  1. Michael g says:

    I believe answers to all these questions found in philosophy. Especially if we look at the ‘social contract’ discussion. A very good article can be found here – as for the actual analysis, it seems to be quite personal and dependent on the moral codex of the individual.

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