Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Glyndebourne Prom : Pelléas et Mélisande, Royal Albert Hall

From the original production of Pelléas et Mélisande - note the pannelled walls

Prom 5 at the Royal Albert Hall - Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande from Glyndebourne.   This is an opera where meaning is deliberately elusive. That is the nature of symbolism : it can and should reveal different things.   Symbolism by definition means thinking beyond surface impressions.  The greater a listener's emotional and visual literacy the more he and she will get from the experience.   Without empathy you're not really alive. That's the story of Golaud's life. Even as Mélisande dies, he can think only of himself and no further.  Thus the challenge of  Pelléas et Mélisande.  There is so much in this amazing opera that you'd be mad to take it on surface appearances.   Should we be like philistine Golaud or like sensitive Pelléas ?  Alas, the Golauds of this world won't even get that question.   Please see my review Herheim Vindicated HERE I've written in some detail, but it deserves it.

Pelléas et Mélisande  is such an abstract opera that it lends itself to concert performances and semi-stagings, which is fine, but opera is music theatre, not "pure" music, though this opera comes closer than most.  An intelligent staging like Herheim’s adds immeasurably, if you pay attention.  Art exists to open up possibilities, to expand understanding. It's not a fixed consumer product assembled to meet customer specifations. Golaud finds Mélisande in the forest but isn't interested in anything but himself, and never learns. Allemonde is a microcosm of the world (that's why it's Allemonde) where the countryside is dying, like Golaud's arid soul.   But I was glad to,listen again at this Prom.  Orchestrally, Ticciati and the London Philharmonic Orchestra were less uneven than they'd been at the performance I attended when there were rough patches.   There were good moments, as there were tonight at the Royal Albert Hall. Perfectly acceptable, though not reaching the heights of true inspiration.

Again, Christopher Purves singing Golaud was superb. His timbre is strong, suggesting the brutishness in Golaud's personality, while also suggesting the terrified frustration that makes limited minds reject what they can't comprehend.  Making Golaud sympathetic is quite a feat but Purves pulls it off.   John Chest singing Pelléas and Christina Gansch singing Mélisande are good enough though not on the level of some of the greats who do these roles for houses with bigger budgets.  Chloé Briot as Yniold was a tad too womanly to sound like a terrified boy, though Herheim's staging develops the part quite well in relation to Mélisande and to the male/female aspects of the opera, which are often missed.  Good, reliable singing in the other parts and chorus.   Brindley Sherratt was also very strong, full of character. Arkel isn't so old that he's decrepit : steel still resides within. 

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