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Originally published January 12, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Page modified January 12, 2009 at 3:09 PM

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"Pearl Fishers" second cast produces another gem

The second cast of Seattle Opera's "Pearl Fishers" features Larissa Yudina, Brian Stucki and David Adam Moore. Review by Bernard Jacobson.

Special to The Seattle Times

Additional performances

"The Pearl Fishers"

Presented by Seattle Opera, through Jan. 24, McCaw Hall, Seattle Center; $25-$172 (206-389-7676 or www.seattleopera.org).

Opera Review |

Unlike lightning, magic struck a second time at Sunday's matinee performance of "The Pearl Fishers" — but not quite as ravishingly as in Saturday's opening-night performance.

Aside from Patrick Carfizzi, who repeated his authoritative portrayal of the high priest, Nourabad, all the principal roles changed hands for this second look at Bizet's wonderful opera. The new Leïla, Nadir and Zurga all did well, and it is only against the background of their predecessors' performances that I have to confess a touch of disappointment.

The biggest difference is to be found in the voice-types of the two Leïlas. Russian soprano Larissa Yudina's other roles include Zerbinetta, Olympia and the Queen of the Night. Hers is indeed an essentially coloratura instrument, better fitted for the upper flights than for the middle of the range, where Mary Dunleavy on Saturday had sounded so voluptuous and sympathetic. If you can imagine the Fiakermilli (in Strauss' "Arabella") transported from Vienna to Ceylon and switched from the profane to the sacred realm, that is what the more florid passages sounded like on Sunday. There were exciting moments in her singing, but they tended to come on isolated notes, and too many of those notes emerged almost violently from an insufficiently integrated line.

Sunday's Nadir, Brian Stucki, was vocally more at home. He may not command quite as much physical ebullience as William Burden, but he displayed a pleasantly French tenor timbre, and phrased sensitively in his famous duet with Zurga.

In that role, baritone David Adam Moore differed from Saturday's Christopher Feigum more strikingly in dramatic than in vocal terms. Moore's voice is both strong and lustrous. But he did not emulate the impressive moment in Act 1 when Feigum's Zurga, acclaimed as the pearl fishers' king, suddenly took on new dignity with the donning of his robe of office — Moore just smiled happily at this point, as if to say "Well, I'm still just one of the chaps, you know!" And he portrayed Zurga's struggle with conscience in Act 3 with far less intensity than Feigum.

Still, this "Pearl Fishers" remains a must-hear, must-see production for anyone susceptible to musical genius and romantic enchantment.

Bernard Jacobson: bernardijacobson@comcast.net

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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