Opera Scotland

Pearl Fishers 1988Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Pearl Fishers

While The Pearl Fishers contains much hugely attractive music, it is dramatically weak, with two-dimensional characters and a perfunctory ending. Assuming the appropriate musical standards are attained - by no means easy - the piece can still be effective if a director works carefully to cover the cracks. When these performances were first announced, the intention was to revive the successful Steven Pimlott staging from 1981. Previous performances had been in variable French, and this time it was to be sung in English, which gave scope for greater clarity (in an age before the availability of surtitles).

In the event, a new production was mounted at short notice and with a minimal budget. Perhaps for that reason, it was a great disappointment in almost every respect. The set designs were bland, predominantly white and lacking in character, and seemed to bleach out any kind of atmosphere or drama from the performance. The costumes, similarly pale, carried vague echoes of the Raj. The lead characters wore western-style dress, and of their occupation their was no sign.  The only colour came from the crimson costumes of three Kathakali-style dancers, one of the few unsuccessful elements from the previous staging, for some reason recycled.

Apart from John Tranter, neither singers nor conductor had appeared with the company before and seemed for the most part to be miscast or suffering from colds. Kim Begley, an excellent dramatic tenor, lacked the sweetness of tone essential for this music, particularly up high, while Patrick Wheatley just seemed out of sorts. Rita Cullis, quite a powerful soprano, came back to Scottish Opera far more effectively in other roles of completely different styles . Peter Robinson did not return until his successful Falstaff twenty years later.

The stylishly simple black, white and silver programme cover introduced for the season was highly attractive, but the idea was not repeated.


Scottish Opera's Season 1987/88

The 1987/88 season of Scottish Opera featured ten main stage productions. Six of these were new: AïdaLuluThe Pearl FishersCosì fan tutte La bohème and Candide. The four revivals were Seraglio, La vie ParisienneEugene Onegin (sung in Russian for the first time) and Death in Venice.

Performance Cast

Nadir a fisherman, friend of Zurga

Kim Begley

Zurga leader of the fishermen

Patrick Wheatley

Léïla a priestess of Brahma

Rita Cullis

Nourabad High Priest of Brahma

John Tranter


Peter Royston

Grant Richards

Tom McVeigh

Performance DatesPearl Fishers 1988

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

26 Jan, 19.15 30 Jan, 14.15 3 Feb, 19.15 11 Feb, 19.15 13 Feb, 19.15 24 Feb, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

6 Apr, 19.15 8 Apr, 19.15

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