The Pearlfishers


The Pearlfishers

Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre


The Pearlfishers paints a picture of paradise, of golden sands and colourful silks. That soul-stirring, chart-topping Pearlfishers duet is just one highlight of a beautiful score.

In the hands of master storyteller Michael Gow, Bizet’s romantic opera is a compelling tale. Two men swear loyalty to each other but as the opera unfolds, temptation duels with duty, true hearts turn black with jealousy and rash choices bring regrets.

The Australian playwright and director is drawn to the history behind the lavish cultural stereotypes. The lustre of a pearl can't tell the story of its gruesome industry, a trade where cruel men count pearls above a fisher's life or livelihood. But Gow can.

Robert Kemp's sets and costumes honour Ceylon's colonial past, marrying vivid colours and exotic beauty with signs of decay: a crumbling temple and a once-great manor against a tropical sky.

Conducted by Guillaume Tourniaire, and featuring Emma Matthews, Dmitry Korchak and José Carbó, this new Pearlfishers offers audiences a chance to hear Bizet’s passionate music in a new light.


For every pearl, a price.
For every vow, a broken promise.
For every heart, a choice.

Enjoy dinner before the opera at Arts Centre Melbourne

A couple dines at Arts Centre Melbourne before the operaAllow us to make your dinner reservation for you: 6pm in a pop-up dining space with shared tables next to Café Vic. You'll be served a three-course menu for just $65, including matched wine. View the menu.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets. If you already have tickets to The Pearlfishers, simply sign in to your account and go to 'upcoming performances'.

Conductor Guillaume Tourniaire
Director Michael Gow
Set & Costume Designer Robert Kemp
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Léïla Emma Matthews
Nadir Dmitry Korchak
Zurga José Carbó
Nourabad Steven Gallop

Opera Australia Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

Running time: approximately 2 hours & 20 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.

The Pearlfishers production was commissioned by the Opera Conference, Australia's national partnership of professional opera companies.

 Production Partner

The Opera Society logo


The StoryHide

At the start of the pearl fishing season in Ceylon, the profiteer Nourabad brings the beautiful, mysterious Léïla to the temple to bless the season. Her beautiful singing and vows of chastity will protect the divers, but before the night is out, she'll drive a wedge between two friends.

Nadir and Zurga have a passionate relationship, but were once both entranced by a woman singing in a temple. Nadir betrayed Zurga and pursued her, and now he recognises her voice in the mysterious woman.

They meet under cover of night, and Léïla is tempted. But their romance is under threat: Nadir's betrayal sparks terrible jealousy in Zurga, and Nourabad will stop at nothing to protect his pearl fishing profits.

Act 1

It's the start of the pearl diving season on the coast of colonial Ceylon. The local administrator, Zurga, greets the villagers as they celebrate this important day. As always, Zurga is named King for the duration of the diving season. During the festivities, a young man arrives. He has been away a long time, hunting. His name is Nadir.

Nadir's and Zurga's relationship was once passionate and intense. Zurga wants things to be the way they were. Nadir assures him they are and the men reminisce, remembering a night in the sacred city of Kandy when they were both entranced by a woman singing in the temple.

Nadir has lied to Zurga and is tormented by guilt. He spent a night with the woman in the temple and has been secretly following her ever since.

A mysterious woman arrives, brought from Kandy by Nourabad, a profiteer operating throughout the region. Her beautiful voice will ensure the safety of the divers.

The woman promises to remain single to protect the power of her singing. Her voice is familiar to Nadir. The woman recognises Nadir.

As the boats leave the shore, Nadir reveals himself to the woman, whose name is Leila, the woman he is obsessed with. They promise to meet later in the night.

Act 2

The night's oyster gathering is finished. Nourabad barricades Leila in a temple to keep her away from men and so maintain her value. Leila tells him about a man she once rescued from creditors who wanted to kill him. He gave her a necklace in gratitude.

Nadir sneaks into the temple and he and Leila are joyfully reunited. A storm approaches and Leila becomes anxious, fearing she has brought bad luck by meeting with Nadir again. Nadir leaves the temple but Nourabad, already suspicious, catches him.

Nourabad calls the villagers together and tells them Nadir has betrayed them. They are angry but Zurga calms the crowd and tries to get Nadir away. Nourabad reveals Leila's identity. Zurga is outraged that Nadir has lied to him and tells the villagers they must kill Nadir and Leila.

Act 3

Scene 1

As a violent storm subsides, Zurga regrets the judgement he has passed on Nadir. Leila comes to beg for Nadir's life. At first Zurga relents, but Leila admits she loves Nadir and he loves her. Zurga confesses that he, too, loves Nadir and he cannot bear it; they both must die. Leila asks him to return a necklace to her mother. Zurga recognises the necklace. It was Leila who saved him many years ago.

Scene 2

Nourabad is furious his lucrative singer is now disgraced and urges the villagers to kill her and her lover. As the time approaches, Zurga comes to tell the villagers that heaven is raining fire on the village. They rush to save their children. Zurga confesses that he has set fire to the village to allow Leila and Nadir to escape.

Left alone, Zurga awaits the judgement of Nourabad and the outraged pearl fishers.

Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm in a pop-up dining space with shared tables next to Café Vic. You'll be served a three-course set menu for just $65, including matched wine.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets for The Pearlfishers. If you already have tickets to The Pearlfishers, simply sign in to your account and go to 'upcoming performances'.


Cumin & tamarind glazed quail, kipfler potato & chat
with a glass of Tin Shed Wild Bunch Riesling


Poached ginger-infused barramundi, kesari mash, coconut & fishmolly sauce
served with a glass of Maximus Sauvignon Blanc


Caramelised pineapple, cardamom ice cream & coconut tuile

Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.

Published menu is subject to change without notice.
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