Review: WNO - Pelleas & Melisande @ WMC
*Please note* There will be no French accents in this review, due to the unexpected and temperamental handling of them in the website system.
With critics severely divided over Peter Pan (it appeared only myself and The Times rated the show 5 stars), WNO have created another version of this classic French opera.
Cardiff may be getting Debussy fatigue, with recent world premieres of his music and The House of Usher Double Bill last year, have amounted to great billings of this music in the Welsh capital. Few would argue his importance, influencing music and art ever since he began to compose. Pelleas & Melisande is Debussy's only completed opera and it should be acclaimed as a masterpiece, even with its uneasy length and perplexing sensuality. I adore Debussy yet can three hours of his work have real substance? The perfumed and evocative scores are highly alluring, the smell can drop and the reality hit home.
Set in the fictional land of Allemonde (basically Normandy or Brittany), Golaud discovers Melisande, weeping by a pond. Her crown has fallen into the water. No one knows who this woman is. Golaud marries her; only for his half-brother Pelleas to fall head over heals for her as well. Tragedy ensues as a mysterious nature seeps through the work. No one is ever as they seem...
The cast here are perfect, even if some French delivery could have been better. Pelleas, played by Jacques Imbrailo, a naive young man dealing with the urges and sensations he is thrown. Melisande was a spellbinding Jurgita Adamonyte, whose luxurious hair deserved a bow of its own. Her fascinating role can never be truly understood. Golaud was an impassioned Christopher Purves, who deals with betrayal in the worst ways imaginable. He is such a powerful actor, as well as singer. King Arkel was a dominating Scott Wilde, who is missing for most of the show.
Rebecca Bottone is getting used to boy roles (she is also Michael in Peter Pan), here being Golaud's son Yniold, who captured the innocent charm and terror the poor boy is put through, spying on the lovers high above a tower. Genevieve was Leah-Marian Jones, fabulosity dressed in bondage-meets-medieval gear, a great support for the king and the whole family. Even Debussy appears in the show, as a considerate Stephen Wells who plays the Doctor, was clearly made to look like him.
The staging was usual David Poutney fare: cyclic themes, morbidness and more morbidness (some recycled ideas and set pieces from the Lulu set also) and productions that don't rock the opera boat too much.
With a luscious music of water and light emerging from the pit, this heady drama is a tempting theatrical experience.
Rating: 4 stars
Pelleas & Melisande has further performances at the WMC on Thursday 4th and Saturday 6th June 2015, before heading to Birmingham Hippodrome on for Saturday 13th June. WNO are also currently on tour with The Magic Flute and Peter Pan.
WNO's autumn season Madness, consists of all brand new productions of Bellini's I puritani, Handel's Orlando and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (with 10 performances in Cardiff).
- Review: Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra & Chorus - Debussy's NO-LA-LI ou Le Palais du Silence @ Saint David's Hall
- Review: WNO - The Fall Of The House Of Usher Double Bill @ WMC
- Review: WNO - Peter Pan @ WMC
Photo Credit: Clive Barda