[Met Performance] CID:291170
Pelléas et Mélisande {85} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/14/1988.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 14, 1988


PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE {85}
Debussy-Maeterlinck

Pelléas.................Douglas Ahlstedt
Mélisande...............Frederica von Stade
Golaud..................José Van Dam
Arkel...................John Macurdy
Geneviève...............Jocelyne Taillon
Yniold..................Clark Utterback
Physician...............Harry Dworchak
Shepherd................Philip Cokorinos

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Fabrizio Melano
Designer................Desmond Heeley
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Pelléas et Mélisande received six performances this season.

Review of Thor Eckert in The Christian Science Monitor

Cast for Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" makes up for poor production

The Metropolitan Opera shares the problem with all opera companies of what to do with bad productions of good operas. The Met has had its share over the years, and it keeps dragging them out, occasionally with strong enough casts to cover certain deficiencies of dramatic or visual conception. Such is the case with Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" running through Feb. 3 (and broadcast this Saturday at 1:30 Eastern time, check local listings). One can almost forget the production itself and focus on the singing and acting.

The Desmond Heeley sets have been so simplified over the years -- so many layers of drops and scrims deleted - as to now serve only as vague, colorless, often even garish hangings! Against which the opera's bewitching "non-drama" unfolds. Even the director's staging does little to heighten the mood or clarify the action; Thus, one must rely on singers and conductor to give us a meaningful operatic encounter.

In general, the Met has put together a very fine cast. Frederica von Stade's Mélisande is a bit bolder than most - still a fragile, evanescent creature, but one who really reacts to her surroundings and is constantly, genuinely confused by the way people behave around her. Jose van Dam is the finest Golaud in the world today: He is forever finding new facets in this tortured character, and his singing is incomparable. I also found John Macurdy's King to be very touching in the last act. Douglas Ahlstedt's Pélleas, however, failed to match the high standards of the other performers.

With conductor James Levine in the pit, we were assured of limpid playing and ravishing textures, with certain moments sublime in their hushed beauty and others thrilling for the boldness of their projection. This proved to be a viable musical.

To compensate for an inferior production that the Met cannot afford to ditch, and since "Pelléas" has always been a labor of love and a box office nightmare, this compromise is surely better than no opera. Over the years, the house has let conservative and literalist tastes lead it down a side road of overpriced or just plain ill-advised mountings.



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