Debussy's masterpiece, Pelléas et Mélisande, is based on Maurice Maeterlinck's symbolist play - a tragic fairytale, which recounts the ill-fated love of half-brothers Golaud and Pelléas for the same woman, the enigmatic Mé... more »lisande. Haunting and intensely atmospheric, Debussy's score continues where language ends, articulating the dream-like inner worlds of the doomed lovers. Melodic vocal lines and motifs resurface throughout the opera like snatched memories. A lyric drama in five acts with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, conducted by Andrew Davis, with Christiane Oelze as Melisande and Richard Croft singing Pelleas. With the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Glyndebourne Chorus."?I have rarely heard Debussy sound richer, or the dying fall of the last act fade more poignantly into infinite darkness." THE DAILY TELEGRAPH "?the cast is on top form. John Tomlinson's Golaud is superb?Christiane Oelze is a mix of elusive glamour and vulnerability." TIME OUT« less
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 07/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In his production for Glyndebourne Graham Vick exchanges Debussy's murky forests and casts for a massive Edwardian mansion dominated by an enormous curved staircase and a glass floor under which seem to be millions of chrysanthemums. Despite the lack of traditional locations, the story works beautifully and some of the symbolism is astonishing and visually stunning, e.g., the final scene with flames quietly engulfing the massive staircase.
I love Vick's work with singers and the singers seem to respond to him in the manner one expects only of the finest stage actors. Richard Croft's remarkable performance as Pelleas begins barefoot and in short pants establishing, for once, this character's youth and aimlessness. This image is further enhanced with the introduction of Yniold almost from the start as the two with toy boats by the water's edge. They are uncle and nephew, one, much older than the other, but both still boys. Croft plangent tenor offers the role an absolutely gorgeous, youthful sound, warm and bright making case can be made that this role is now best suited to a tenor, thus making the distinction between the brothers even stronger. Croft's facial expressions, his ability to swing between ecstatic exhilarated joy to crushed devastation is sensational. That voice combined with the physical intensity of his actions make him today's Pelleas of choice.
Christiane Oelze is a stunning, complicated Melisande; a bit of a natural born troublemaker. The famous "Tower scene" finds her hanging upside down from an immense chandelier, endless hair cascading from it, beneath her a supine Pelleas. As the chandelier lowers Pelleas covers himself with her hair and the scene nearly erupts into an almost unbridled show of eroticism, Pelleas barely able to control himself and Melisande leading the way. As sensual as she is physically, Oelze's voice throughout is liquid and exquisite, capturing nuances the best interpreters of this role find in it.
John Tomlinson is a rougher than usual Golaud, his bent towards violence portending trouble early on. His using Yniold to spy on the couple is chilling theatre as violently he kicks, smashing one of the glass tiles of the floor. He is nothing less than brutal in his handling of his young son. It is a terrified Yniold who flees him, hopelessly banging on the doors for someone to release him from this nightmare. Golaud's violence, of course, extends to both brother and wife, yet following each episode his remorse seems genuine and heartbreaking. Tomlinson presents a Golaud who unravels before our eyes, a man who simply cannot cope. It is chilling.
Glyndebourne Music Director, Andrew Davis moves things along to a good, flowing tempi and the London Philharmonic responds with breathtaking sound, alternately dense and diaphanous. This is, quite simply, one of my favorite performances of any opera and haunting, tragic lyric theatre at its very best. "
Heartwrending and genuine performance of Debussy's opera
Jesse Bye | California | 06/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll preface this review with the following statement: this was my first opera, I having never seen any other operas. I had no expectations other than my love of Debussy's music, and had no ideas of what it would be like (not even the stereotypical fat lady). So you could say this was virgin territory. That said, I will now begin the review.
With the opening of the curtain to a Golaud seated in an armchair (the forest exists only one's imagination) I was compelled. The set is beautiful, although sometimes confusing: the entire story takes place in one enormous set, with a huge staircase winding through a section. Different scenes open in different parts of the set, but nothing really changes between - a table moved here, flowers placed there, but nothing to really indicate where the scene is taking place. This lends ethereality to the opera, forcing me to use more imagination and to contemplate the symbolism, but also confusing my brother in a couple of places. I wouldn't emphasize this lack of change in the set very much; it didn't hinder my enjoyment or understanding of the opera at all.
The costumes used are good, but sometimes inconsistent with my idea of what they might be: Golaud and Pelleas wear suits and ties, and Melisande wears more timeless dresses. Overall it reminds me of a mixture of 19th and early 20th century. The false beard of Arkel is obviously false, and Melisande's hair when unleashed reminded me of yarn (but not that bad). So everything is just a little below top-notch. Once again, none of this diminshed my enjoyment of the opera in the least. I just tend to notice these kinds of things, and thought to mention them in case anyone else cares.
The singing is superb and unmatched (in my opinion), conveying so much emotion and beauty. I have heard other recordings of the opera, but was most impressed by this one. Some would argue that Yniold would have been better played by a female soprano, but I would argue that having an actual boy play the role makes a huge difference; his boyish voice, while not perfect by a critic's standards, lends him humanity and honesty. Melisande's voice is beautiful, from the initial cries of "ne me touchez pas" to the confusion and delirium in the final scene with "qui est-ce qui va mourir? Est-ce moi?" (Who is going to die? Is it I?) She is always not quite there, having an essence of fairy and unreality to her. Her singing and acting hauntingly portray this. And as Melisande, she is beautiful and perfect for her role.
Richard Croft as Pelleas comes across as obsessed, desperate, and childish, undecided and spontaneous, fondling and caressing Melisande's hair with enormous passion. His voice is strong, young, and faultless. And while he might not fit every person's idea of the young handsome lover, he looks like a good fit to me.
Golaud: here is a character portrayed so well, I would say that he sets the benchmark for Golauds. He is terrified, then loving; gentle, then horribly abusive; calm, then utterly mad. Every aspect conveyed is done subtly, remarkably humanly. One can easily imagine him existing in real life, and it would be hard to detect any aspect of falsehood or poor acting with this performance. I was astounded.
Arkel and Genevieve play their roles as they should, not remarkable, but not distracting either.
The shepherd, often neglected in other performances, is present and a bit disturbing: after telling Yniold that "this is not the way to the sheepfold", he smashes one of the toy sheep with a terrible stomp, and grinds it in half with his heel.
The doctor is a good match for his role, showing a good amount of tenderness and compassion on the dying Melisande and fatalistic Golaud.
A word about Debussy's music: while there isn't a defining melody or melodies, there are melodies present. However, they are so interwoven and rooted in the music that they don't stand out. They do become intertwined with one's heart, and hearing them can bring back a flood of memories and desires left by a viewing (and listening) of the opera.
After watching the opera, I purchased some orchestral music by Debussy from approximately the same period of his development (Images, Nocturnes, la Mer, etc.). I would listen to this music, which I would say is just as beautiful as Pelleas et Melisande, and would tell others, "This reminds me so much of Pelleas et Melisande!" The same expression of emotion was present in these pieces of music. They added even more to my enjoyment of the opera. But I think the connection was so strong because of Debussy's compositional technique. I have never before heard so clearly expressed the emotions that everyone experiences in life. Hatred, love, joy, sadness, anger, pain. They are all there, vivid and directed straight at the heart. Debussy is such a master of composition that the music sometimes leaps past the conscious to the unconscious, to the realm of emotion and feeling. The music becomes rooted in this unconscious, and a second viewing of the opera or a listening of Debussy's orchestral works brings back the emotions. It can be a wrenching experience, but is hardly disappointing or annoying. I am glad that I can experience so much emotion from an opera (I am notorious for being mostly stoic in many other areas, but Debussy's music is one area where I am hardly stoic).
Anyhow, I think that I was most impressed by the genuine emotion and acting that were so well performed. With beautiful (both in acting and singing) performers, a richly dark, tragic, and haunting orchestra and conductor, and everything else just right, this opera is amazing. I was not disappointed in any way.
George B. Laurent | florida | 08/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen and heard hundreds of operas and pride myself that I have liked nearly all of them. However I have always considered Pelleas et Melisande to be a colosal bore! I am also a tradionalist when it comes to staging operas and am furious with the way that many operas are staged today. The previous reviews intrigued me - so I decided to gamble. I am now a convert! I now have a real appreciation of the opera which receives an excellent performance and magnificent staging! "
Vick's Pelleas and Melisande
Y. J. Lee | ASIA | 01/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many years ago I listened to Pelleas Melisande on CD, and almost fell to sleep. But I liked Graham Vick's directing(Lulu), and tried this DVD, trusting his mastery. The result was satisfactory. First of all casting was excellent. Richard Croft and John Tomlinson played their roles earnestly and passionately, Christiane Oelze was very beautiful and subtle. Though for singing I prefered Maria Ewing's, her singing was also remarkable. I however liked the stage most of all. The romantic but authentic set seemed to represent the rigid atmosphere of Arkel & Golaud, and the pressure Pelleas, Melisande & Ynold might suffer. I feel his stage directing is not too conventional, not too modern, but visually delicate. "
Robert Baksa | new york state | 01/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is peopled with a wonderful cast of English singers. They could hardly be bettered. But the direction works against the music at every turn. Instead of the various scenes indicated in the score it all takes place in an Edwardian living room. Melisande is discovered on the dining room table clothed in a sheet! (who left the front door open so that an unknown naked woman could wander in?) In a later scene she appears smartly dressed in an Edwardian "day" outfit. This only begins to enumerate the inconsistancies with the libretto. The net result is that all of the mystery associated with the characters is gone. Melisande has no mystery at all. She is a smartly turned out English lady. When will be be free of directorial "creativity?" The austerity of the sets in the Boulez set are not always attractive but it gives a much better feel of the piece than this mess. Too bad. These wonderful singers deserve better. So do opera lovers.