Argentina Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón. Conductor: Emmanuell Villaume, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 17.8.2011. (JSJ)
Direction: Olivia Fuchs
Sets/costumes: Yannis Thavoris
Lighting: Roberto Traferri
Chorus: Peter Burian
Choreography: Claire Whistler
Pélleas: Markus Werba
Mélisande: Anne Sophie Duprels
Golaud: Marc Barrard
Arkel: Kurt Rydl
Yniold: Fabiola Masino
Geneviève: Vera Cirkovic
Doctor: Mario De Salvo
Shepherd: Sebastiano De Filippi
Debussy’s only complete opera Pelléas et Mélisande , premiered soon after the start of the 20th century in 1902 after almost a decade in the making, is generally regarded as one of the most important operas of its time, although it has never been and is unlikely to become widely popular.
The plot is essentially straightforward, involving a love triangle between Golaud, Mélisande, who he has found in a forest and marries and brings to live in the castle of his grandfather Arkel, and his half brother Pélleas, who falls in love with Mélisande, arousing Golaud’s jealousy and leading to his eventual death, followed by that of Mélisande after having given birth to a daughter. However, the work is filled with symbolism, which Debussy’s music captures so well, despite the difficulties he apparently had in achieving this, opening the way for a wide variety of directorial interpretations.
This production by the Teatro Colón was based on Opera Holland Park’s 2010 production by Olivia Fuchs with scenery and costumes by Yannis Thavoris (see review). The forest and castle surroundings are essentially an abstract creation and there is a large ring to one side, while the castle is a geometrical framework which is used in various different angles of rotation, but otherwise there are few differences between the different, mostly low lit settings.
Common to the Holland Park production was Anne Sophie Duprels’ Mélisande and as there, she was more knowing than naïve and innocent. However, she uses her voice well to produce some fine singing. Alongside her Marc Barrard was a convincing Golaud, and Markus Werba was a youthful Pélleas. Though both baritones, their respective timbres were sufficiently different – Barrard darker and more intense and Werba lighter and more agile – to well complement each other.
Kurt Rydl was a powerful Arkel, his portrayal of Arkel’s blindness masterly and his voice commanding, and Yniold was also well played by Fabiola Masino, her petite stature in keeping with the role. Vera Cirkovic was correct as Geneviève, as were Mario De Salvo as the Doctor and Sebastiano De Filippi as the Shepherd.
Less successful however, and perhaps Ms Fuchs’ most controversial intervention, were the eight dancers who besides being out of place and apart from moving the castle framework around, were nothing less than a distraction during the musical interludes between the acts.
Emmanuel Villaume, director of the Slovenia Philharmonic and Slovakia Philharmonic orchestras, making his debut at the Teatro Colón, led the resident orchestra in an outstanding reading, highlighting the lights and darks in the flow of the score.
Jonathan Spencer Jones