Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Pearl Fishers

                                                              Ô vision !   ô rêve !

                                                                           -- from "The Pearl Fishers"

This past weekend and next week Opera Southwest -- our local (Albuquerque) opera company -- presents "The Pearl Fishers," an early opera by Georges Bizet, written in 1863 when he was 24.  It's one of the few Bizet operas besides "Carmen" that is still performed.

When it premiered, audiences liked it but critics thought it wasn't original enough.  (Hey, he was only 24!)  The libretto is generally considered to be weak (not his fault - he didn't write it), and Bizet was still finding his voice as a composer, but the opera contains some wonderful music, including the duet "Au fond du temple saint" (the so-called "Pearl Fishers Duet") which, according to some stories, was performed at Bizet's funeral; it's now a standard concert show-piece.  (To see/hear it performed by Bryn Terfel and Andrea Bocelli, click here.)

Through a Corrales friend and fellow photographer, last Thursday night he and I had the opportunity to photograph a dress rehearsal of the performance.  

We had the freedom to roam backstage, 

on stage before the performance . . .

and after . . .

. . . in the orchestra pit . . .

 . . . and even to the edge of the stage during the performance.

For a photographer it was a wonderful opportunity:  colorful sets, costumes, and lighting . . . 

grand, dramatic gestures . . . 

and at the heart of it all, great singing!

(Of course, you'll have to go to the performance to hear that!  For information about the Opera Southwest performances, click here.)

To make it even more interesting, this was all happening in real time, so I was constantly having to adjust my camera settings, find the best vantage points, and compose my shots on the fly.  It was like simultaneously being the director and the cameraman for a four-hour live television production. 

It was a total rush, and I loved it!

For you photographers, I was working without a flash (which would have been useless in the auditorium anyway) and at the limits of my Canon EOS 7D's capabilities:  ISOs in the 4-5,000 range; f-stops in the 4.0-5.6 range; and shutter speeds 1/80th to 1/100th of a second.  I used a 75-300mm telephoto (f/4.0-5.6) mounted on a tripod for some shots, but I really didn't like being tethered to the tripod, so for most shots I roamed with my 18-135mm wide-angle lens (f/3.5-5.6).  As a result, the image quality isn't great, but I cared more about capturing the power and emotion of the acting and the music.

You can see these and more images from "The Pearl Fishers" at my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


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