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The first of a pair of Georges Bizet’s works produced by the Washington National Opera this season (Carmen arrives in November), The Pearl Fishers is a lavish display of 19th-century Orientalism. Inspired by the Indian Hindu epic Ramayana yet set in a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, it reflects France’s somewhat confused fascination with all things Eastern when the piece was written in 1863, as well as Bizet’s thing for exotic women. Brahman priestess Leila’s arrival at a coastal village ignites the passions of both Zurga, chief of the pearl fishers, and his buddy Nadir, thus setting up the inevitable tragic love triangle. The performance features Italian conductor Giuseppe Grazioli and French soprano Norah Ansellem in her company debut. However, the true star of the show might be the set itself: British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes has adapted her runway skills to the stage for an elaborate aquatic-themed production.
THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA PERFORMS THE PEARL FISHERS AT 7:30 P.M. AT THE KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE, 2700 F ST. NW. $45–$225. (202) 295-2400.