Les pêcheurs de perles
Night-time. The high priest Nourabad leads Leila to the temple. Nourabad asks Leila, if she can keep her vow of obedience. The girl responds by telling him the story of how she hid a fugitive, and he repaid her with a necklace – here it is. Left alone, Leila ponders her unexpected encounter with Nadir. She is overtaken by the memories of their love. She is frightened when Nadir appears before her: what will happen if they are seen together? Leila begs him to leave; he agrees, only to come back the next day. But the priests are watchful. The perpetrator is caught! Death to the perjurers! Zurga calms them: he is their chief and he will decide their fate. As Nourabad tears off the girl’s veil, Zurga recognizes Leila, the girl who has divided him and Nadir. Blinded by jealousy and thirst for revenge he changes his decision: they are both to be put to death!
Zurga is alone in his tent. He is in agony: how could he, blinded by rage, condemn his friend and his beloved to death? The fishermen bring in Leila, who wants to talk to the chief. She has broken her vow and she is ready to receive her punishment, but Nadir is innocent, and Leila begs fervently for his salvation. Leila’s mediation reawakens Zurga’s jealousy. Offended and eager for revenge, he demands their execution once again. Leila asks a young fisherman for a favour – to take her pearl necklace to her mother. The astonished Zurga recognizes it – the necklace he had once given to a girl who had saved him. He owes his life to the girl he has condemned to death!