Fine Soloists and 30,000 litres of Water in Finnish Opera’s New Pelléas et Mélisande

Debussy Opera Returns to Finland After 50 Years

After an interval of more than 50 years, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande  returns to  Finnish National Opera this month. Its previous appearance was in 1958, with a run of only five performances all sung in Finnish.

Now, the work will be given in French and by a top-notch cast at that.  Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu  will sing Pelléas, baritone François le Roux is Golaud, and mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager will sing Mélisande. Arkel will be played by Jyrki Korhonen, and Geneviève will be played by FNO’s Artistic Director designate Lilli Paasikivi and Sari Nordqvist.

The production team is also first rate.  The director and set designer is Marco Arturo Marelli, and the costume designer is Dagmar Niefind. They have previously staged Pelléas et Mélisande together at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin to great critical acclaim.

Marelli presents the Symbolist tale of Pelléas and Mélisande in concrete terms because only then can the subconscious level work as intended. “Four generations are intertwined through illness, death and stagnation,” he says. “This internal entrapment, loneliness and isolation is the governing factor for what we see on stage. It guided my vision of a space bounded by water, a sort of bunker set against reflecting depths. ”

The production includes 30,000 litres of water in large pools on the stage because according to Marelli, Debussy’s music is also much like water: it flows at varying speeds, its surface reflects people and events, and its unseen depths are limitless.

The Marelli-Niefind duo have previously visited Finnish National Opera to stage productions of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss (in 2004 -see review) and Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi.

The Pelléas et Mélisande premiere will be conducted by Mikko Franck, Finnish National Opera’s current Artistic Director on   March 23  and  other performances follow on March 26  and 28,  April  9, 13, 17, 21, 26 and 28.

More details  –  in English –  are available from the Finnish National Opera and Ballet website.

Bill Kenny