Virginia Opera Opens 2012-13 Season with Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers

September 5, 2012 – Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, will open its 2012-13 Season with Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, Va., followed by additional performances in Norfolk, Richmond and Fairfax, Va.

The Pearl Fishers is a classic tale of forbidden love, jealousy and intrigue that joins Carmen as one of Bizet’s crowning achievements. Bizet, known for his mastery of melodies, composed The Pearl Fishers at the age of twenty-four—twelve years before Carmen. The opera’s love triangle is set against an exotic, island backdrop and showcases the celebrated “Pearl Fishers Duet” for tenor and baritone, “Au fond du temple saint.” The duet has been regarded for decades as one of the greatest operatic numbers of all time and was performed at Bizet’s own funeral. 

The Pearl Fishers is the second installment of Virginia Opera’s “First of Firsts” series, a program designed to bring new productions to each season. “Virginia Opera’s ‘First of First’s’ initiative kicks off the season with a gorgeous melody-filled opera that’s being performed by the Company for the first time in its history,” said Virginia Opera Artistic Advisor Robin Thompson. “This brand new production of The Pearl Fishers is being custom-built for Commonwealth audiences. A truly exceptional experience awaits!” 

Internationally-acclaimed Conductor Anne Manson and Emmy-nominated Director Tazewell Thompson make their team debut for this production. Hailed by The New York Times for her “significant achievements in the international opera world,” Manson is one of only three women to have been appointed Music Director of a leading American symphony, having served with the Kansas City Symphony from 1999-2003. Thompson has produced and directed more than 60 opera and theatre productions. His production of Porgy and Bess for the New York City Opera was televised on Live from Lincoln Center in 2002 and received Emmy nominations for Best Classical Production and Best Director. 

“My collaborators and I are approaching The Pearl Fishers with the passion, precision and loving care that I’m sure the young genius Bizet did so long ago,” said Thompson. “It is a world where the erotic, the indulgent, the uninhibited dance boldly with rituals, taboos and superstitions that dare not be transgressed; a dreamland where the fantastical, the ecstatic, the rhapsodic co-exist recklessly. It is a veritable feast for eye and ear where the imagination can, and should, take flight.”

Soprano Heather Buck returns to Virginia Opera as the mysterious virgin priestess Leila, after her critically-acclaimed performance in the 2012 Virginia Opera production of Orpheé. Tenor Chad A. Johnson (Don Giovanni, 2010) and baritone David Pershall (Emerging Artists Program, 2008) also return to the Company’s stage as Leila’s competing suitors, Nadir and Zurga. Rounding out the cast, and making his fifth appearance with the Company, is bass Nathan Stark as the wise village elder Nourabad.

The Pearl Fishers will be performed in French with English supertitles projected above the stage. The Orchestra for this Virginia Opera production is provided by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Each performance will feature a free 30-minute pre-opera discussion by Virginia Opera’s Dr. Glenn “Dr. Opera” Winters. 

Tickets range from $25 to $114 and are available at with student, group and active military discounts available. The production opens on Saturday, Sept. 29, in Norfolk, Va., and is scheduled to appear in all three Virginia Opera venues as follows: 

Harrison Opera House

Norfolk, Va.

757.623.1223 (Southside)

757.877.2550 (Peninsula)


Sat., Sept. 29, 2012, at 8:00 p.m.

Wed., Oct. 3, 2012, at 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 5, 2012, at 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 7, 2012, at 2:30 p.m.


George Mason University

Center for the Arts

Fairfax, Va.



Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 14, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.

Carpenter Theatre
  at Richmond CenterStage

Richmond, Va.



Fri., Oct. 19, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 21, 2012, at 2:30 p.m.


Virginia Opera will offer multiple Student Night at the Opera performances for this production of The Pearl Fishers. Student Night at the Opera allows students and chaperones to experience the power of live opera, with unparalleled access at reduced ticket prices, in order to broaden appreciation for cultural arts in our community. A special “Students Only” performance will be held in Norfolk on Sept. 27, 2012. Student Night at the Opera tickets will also be available for both Richmond performance dates, Oct. 19 and 21, 2012. For more details about Student Night at the Opera or to purchase tickets, visit our website.

About Virginia Opera

Virginia Opera is in its 38th year of operation.  The Company has a working budget of $6.4 million with over 40 mainstage performances in three markets, reaching nearly 60,000 attendees.  In March of 1994 Virginia Opera was named The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia in recognition of the organization’s contribution to the Commonwealth and to the world of opera.

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