Les Pêcheurs de Perles

Santa Fe Opera, 2014 and 2019

Credits | Reviews  ⇓


By Georges Bizet, 1863

Directed by Lee Blakeley, 2014

Revival Direction by Shawna Lucey, 2019

Stage Design by Jean-Marc Puissant

Costume Design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel

Lighting Design by Rick Fisher




Production Manager: Eric J. Moore

Head Painter: Mark Elmund

Props Master: Randy Lutz

Images © P. Horpedahl, K. Howard courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

The scenic design for this production is based on physically framing and quoting an Orientalist storyline to allow for a less prescriptive staging and performance style.


The opera’s libretto’s ancient Ceylonese temples and locations are seen in the distance. This deliberatly traditional scenic style is offset by Santa Fe’s infamous skies, sunsets or thunderstorms.


A large gilded frame of an epic Napoleon III orientalist painting holds and quotes the story of the libretto. It becomes an opera house-style proscenium arch, allowing characters to step out of their orientalist storyline into a dilapidated Hausmannian building.


Held by scaffolding, the walls of this 19th century room provide a more timeless space for the performance to unfold, giving characters and the staging an opportunity to develop beyond orientalist stereotypes.


Santa Fe Reporter by John Stage

Scenic design by Jean-Marc Puissant, equally thoughtful and original, leads the eye from SFO’s auditorium into the 19th century theatrical decrepitude of something like Peter Brooks’ Bouffes du Nord in Paris and thence to the massively picture-framed depiction of a mythic, fictitious Ceylon. A brilliant notion, and seeing’s believing.


The Wall Street Journal by Heidi Waleson

Jean-Marc Puissant’s set, with the characters stepping in and out of a giant gilt frame, suggested that the opera is not merely exotic and picturesque. Lee Blakeley’s smart production, the best of this summer’s season.


Chicago Tribune by John von Rhein

Scenic designer Jean-Marc Puissant sets the action within a gold-framed proscenium, with massive stone blocks forming a Buddhist temple to one side of the stage. As with so many Santa Fe productions, this one invites Mother Nature into the show, the open sky of the surrounding high-desert country – in full view at the back of the open-ended theater – standing in nicely for the work’s ancient, Sri Lankan setting.

Jean-Marc Puissant’s sets, Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes and Fisher’s lighting yielded a stunning succession of stage images. Viewing them through the big gilt picture-frame, the audience might feel it is viewing a gallery of Orientalist canvases by Gérôme or Delacroix, all to a radiant musical accompaniment.


Opera News by Simon Williams

In Jean-Marc Puissant’s design, the back half of the stage comprised a set à la Alfred Roller, depicting a heavy, temple-like environment, seen through an ornate gold frame. In front were pieces of furniture suggestive of European colonialism and to the sides ruined façades of buildings, once erected for trade or government. This could stand for Ceylon, a Mediterranean classical temple or a grim Parisian workplace. These multiple references were complemented by Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes for the chorus, which alluded to Ceylonese pearl fishers but were constructed of coarse materials associated with European workmen’s clothing. The golden frame provided beautiful and stirring tableaux that evoked orientalist fantasy and, toward the end, revolutionary mobs who, deprived of their need for idols of beauty, turned ugly. By the end, all reference to an idealized Asia had been obliterated, to be replaced by the devastated Parisian streets of 1830, 1848 and 1870.


Opera Now (UK)

At Santa Fe Opera, Lee Blakeley’s smart production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers was an unqualified success. Jean-Marc Puissant’s set, in which characters stepped out of a giant gilt frame, suggesting that the opera is not merely exotic and picturesque, allowed the contrived plot to make sense.


Santa Fe New Mexican by James M. Keller

Santa Fe Opera made the commendable decision to abolish its traditional 9 p.m. starting times this season, ditching the long-standing argument that the ambient light of dusk would play havoc with the artistry of lighting designers. Audience members have responded with resounding cheers, and if General Director Charles MacKay needed any further vindication, it arrived as Saturday night’s attendees settled into their seats for the company’s first-ever performance of Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.

No mortal lighting designer is ever going to top the scene that greeted them: a stage surrounded by a huge gilt picture frame of 19th-century design, which encased the set of an exotic temple square — its own impressive scale suggested by an immense foot carved from stone — and led the eye to a pulsating, real-life sunset with glowing clouds arranged in flawless equilibrium.


Broadway World by Maria Nockin

The most notable aspect of Jean-Marc Puissant’s set was the huge gold decorative picture frame that provided a proscenium for Santa Fe Opera’s open stage. It was placed at a sideways angle and on a step above the downstage area. Later, at the end of Act II, it fell forward about a foot, indicating storm damage in the village. Another piece of interesting scenery was the stylized hand in which the veiled Leila prayed.