Everything Independent Opera does is distinctive. It's a tiny company, but visionary. Pelléas et Mélisande is a challenge even for big houses, but this isn't the kind of company that's daunted. This Pelléas et Mélisande would do credit to much bigger houses. What Independent Opera lacks in money it makes up with imagination and creativity. Talent like this is far rarer than we appreciate. If the big companies take note of Independent Opera, all of us could be in for some of the most vibrant opera in
This too, is an integral part of the plot even though the roles are silent, for Allemonde is kept alive by scores and scores of underlings who serve in suppressed anonymity. Remember this, for it’s important and pertains to the “surprise” ending this production reveals ! Arkel and Geneviève can’t even walk freely at first but are propelled by machines. When Mélisande enters his life, Arkel can suddenly walk again, albeit with sticks. Geneviève’s costume (also by Boyd) is a statement in itself, a bizarre contraption that makes her look like a piece of ornate Victorian furniture. Her skirt is like a cabinet, brightly polished but strictly compartmentalized. It’s a symbol of the alienated rigidity which Mélisande’s presence shakes to the core.
Golaud’s emotionally retarded, with a history of clumsy relationships. Foster-Williams makes Golaud’s sexual interest in Mélisande very clear. This adds to the suppressed aggression beneath the surface calm. When they'd met, Mélisande had cried "Ne me touchez pas !", but all Golaud can do is touch her. This Golaud is a man who expresses himself violently because he can’t deal with complex emotions. One of the most striking images in this production is when Golaud strokes Pelléas tenderly and combs his hair. It’s a charged moment. It's not erotic so much as Golaud trying to understand "normal" feelings in his inept way, feelings he knows come naturally to his brother. This is a fascinating characterization, supported by the tenderness that wells up in the music, which speaks for him what he cannot express in words.
Even the sickly baby materialises as a little girl. Mélisande says “elle va pleurer aussi”, but that could mean many different things. Perhaps the girl will grow up and repeat the mysterious cycle ? Small as this detail may be, it’s an important because it reminds us that we still have no idea where Mélisande came from or who she really was.