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Beauty and Desire: Exoticism and Authenticity in "The Pearl Fishers"

Sadler Seminar Series
Monday 15 May 2023, 17:00 - 18:30
Howard Opera Centre

On the eve of Opera North’s new staging of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, join Opera North’s Academic in Residence Professor Edward Venn, creatives from the production and guests for a series of conversations about how productions and performances of The Pearl Fishers engage with issues of desire, memory, colonialism and authenticity.

What might it mean to stage The Pearl Fishers in 2023?

The pearl, says director Matthew Eberhardt, can be used to represent “beauty and desire” as well as “obsession and greed”. All of these themes come to the fore in his staging of the work, which explores the inner lives of the three main characters. Bizet’s location for the opera – an imagined, pre-colonial version of Sri Lanka – reflects nineteenth-century Parisian tastes for exoticism in the arts. For modern-day opera companies, creative artists and audiences, this setting, and Bizet’s handling of it, brings with it questions about the legacies of colonialism and the ways in which non-European cultures are represented. Speakers include Matthew Kofi Waldren (conductor), Matthew Eberhardt (director), Keranjeet Kaur Virdee MBE (Chief Executive, South Asian Arts-uk) and Griselda Pollock (Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds).

Content note: discussion of anachronistic references to race.

A DARE symposium in partnership with the University of Leeds, led by Professor Edward Venn from the School of Music as part of the Sadler Seminar Series Telling Operatic Stories: Race, ethics, and authenticity supported by the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute. The event is free and open to anyone interested in opera, culture and society. Tickets can be reserved at

Please contact Luqian Zhao for further information.