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Debussy/McNeff Pelleas et Mélisande

Andrew Foster-Williams (Golaud) [Pictured]
Thorbjorn Gulbrandsoy (Pelleas)
Delphine Gillot (Melisande)[pictured]
Frédéric Bourreau (Arkel)
Julie Pasturaud (Geneviève)
Caryl Hughes (Yniold)

Stephen McNeff (orchestrator)
Dominic Wheeler (conductor)
Alessandro Talevi (director)
Madeleine Boyd (designer)
Matthew Hoskins (lighting)




see all production photos http://www.independentopera.com/productions/pelleas_photos.htm

Independent Opera at Lilian Bayliss Studio, Sadler's Wells
November 18 2008

This brilliant and elaborate production is all too likely to disappear without trace after a couple of days more at the Sadlers Wells pleasant little studio theatre. The McNeff re-orchestration of the original version (with shorter interludes than the version usually seen) will be seized upon by smaller opera companies and colleges; it is a triumph.

Independent Opera currently fields just one production a year and for but few performances. Financial backing has enabled an elaborate, sometimes indulgent, staging and lighting which is evocative if sometimes, in detail, irritatingly overloaded with mechanical devices including trollies on rails and trap doors. A few of the scenes are misconceived, e.g. Yniold's struggle with a too heavy stone is depicted with an image which reminds you of a bowling alley - the conductor doubles to sing the Shepherd's brief part. The love scene with Pelleas below the tower has Melisand's hair represented by a single thread; better shut your eyes and imagine...

Despite a few excesses and misjudgements the total effect is mesmerising and the originality of the opera comes across with full force, notably Golaud's scarifying attack on Melisande which is even more harrowing than the equivalent scene with Otello and Desdemona in Verdi's Act 3 (seen this week on the Felsenstein film).

Perhaps the Debussy/McNeff Pelleas et Mélisande is at least being recorded for broadcast and CD? Last year's Maconchy double bill is to be released by Chandos next year, but this one demands preservation of Madeleine Boyd's designs and Talevi's staging on film and DVD; with judiciously directed camera work it could be even more effective than in the studio theatre. *

For descriptions of this important production's stage pictures and exceptionally strong casting, see the first review to appear in Evening Standard and Hilary Finch's in The Times. You'd need to hurry to try for a ticket; the last performance is on Saturday !

Peter Grahame Woolf

P.S. Anne Ozorio for Seen&Heard is perhaps the most perspiacious of all commentators.

Stewart Jenkin adds:

The cast coped with the contortions required to get on and off the stage and did not let them distract from projecting the French language with admirable clarity.  All the voices were suited to their respective characters; the outstanding singer being Frederic Bourreau whose weary tones conveyed the sadness of Arkel without being tiresome.  He and Ingrid Perruche (Melisande) and Julie Pasturaud (Genevieve) enjoyed the advantage of performing in their native tongue, but Thorbjorn Gulbrandsoy (Pelleas) and Andrew Foster-Williams (Golaud) could not be faulted in their pronunciation of the text.  The presentation made a considerable effect and the audience were suitably appreciative.


* P.S. The Financial Times review tells us that this was the last of a remarkable venture; "Independent Opera's founder and funder, Bill Bollinger, is pulling the plug and leaving the company's supporters with a huge sense of let-down"


Melisande with Golaud: image Robbie Jack