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Faculty Essay


In lieu of an abstract, below is the essay's first paragraph.

"Although in recent years Georges Bizet’s “other” opera, Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), has been performed on occasion, scant attention has been paid to it, compared to his world-renowned masterpiece Carmen. Even those who are not avowed opera goers have at least heard of the Habañera (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle) and more so, the ever-popular Toreador Song. Bizet penned The Pearl Fishers at age 25, and enthusiasts of this early work praise the “freshness of inspiration” which contributes to its “perennial success.” (9). The Pearl Fishers takes place on a “wild, arid beach on the island of Ceylon [modern-day Sri Lanka]” (10), where bold divers brave death every year (18). It is a French Orientalist opera, as is Carmen, although there is not yet the mezzo-soprano to embody the “exotic” seductress (in the case of Carmen, the Andalusian Gypsy). We only have the pure coloratura soprano, the opposite end of the narrow spectrum allotted to female characters who do not come from “our” world. The late Dr. Edward Said bases his main argument on the distinction between “our” world and the inaccessible “Orient”: “Indeed, my real argument is that Orientalism is – and does not merely represent – a considerable dimension of modern political-intellectual culture, and as such has less to do with the Orient than it does with ‘our’ world” (12)."

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