Magazine article Musical Opinion

Pelléas et Mélisande

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Pelléas et Mélisande

Article excerpt

Independent Opera's run of successes continues, though sadly (it is rumoured) it will be their last. Debussy's only finished opera came to the Lilian Bayliss Theatre at Sadler's Wells for a short run on 1 8 November. This, only their fourth ever production in its four year history, was a consummate success, one might almost say their usual success, but Bill Bollinger, founder, patron and fund er has called it a day, deciding instead to concentrate upon their excellent artist support programme instead. It's not Arts Council or Lottery funded, so no-one can 'go through usual channels' to stop what must now be Britain's most assured company from ending it all. At least it's going out on a high.

The Bayliss is a small space so the orchestra and singers easily filled the auditorium with walls of sound. This was the premiere of a new orchestration by Stephen McNeff using only 35 instruments, much smaller than the original 50 plus. The new orchestration is a faithful adaptation of the original and in many scenes it was impossible to tell the difference from Debussy's larger orchestra. I can see why it has already been taken up for publication as it will enable smaller houses to mount the work with ease without any sense of a watered down or thin sound.

It seemed almost overloud at times in so small a house and could presumably work well in any moderate sized auditorium. It also has the benefit of throwing the voices into much higher relief, allowing us to follow the text more closely and to sense the nuances within it. The singers themselves were giving of their all, with such force, drive and passion that surely they were exhausted at the end. Thorbjorn Gulbrandsoy as Pelléas and Ingrid Perruche as Mélisande were ideally cast and totally convincing. It is, though, Andrew FosterWilliams as Go laud who dominates and seduces; here he is less interested in loving the foundling as denying her to anyone else: infatuation and possession rule. …

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