Metropolitan Opera Season: Pelléas et Mélisande
Sunday 24 February 2019 at 6pm on RNZ Concert
Paul Appleby (Pelléas), Isabel Leonard (Mélisande), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Geneviève), Kyle Ketelsen (Golaud), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Arkel), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
While the story’s basic format of a love triangle is familiar, almost everything else about the work is atypical. The characters rarely reveal their feelings or intentions, and the dialogue is often deliberately indirect, but the beauty of the sensuous vocal lines and the ravishing orchestral writing will appeal to anyone who is willing to listen beyond standard operatic techniques.
Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949), who penned the source play, was deeply involved in the Symbolist movement.
The opera is set in the mythical kingdom of Allemonde. The era is not indicated, but the ambience of the story is medieval. The setting is more suggestive than specific. Allemonde is reminiscent of 'Allemagne' (Germany) and 'le monde' (the world), but it could just as easily stand for a place that has never existed.
The score’s constantly shifting palette of tones and colours is a perfect musical reflection of the story’s ambiguity and symbolism. There are motifs to represent characters that undergo subtle variations over the course of the opera. Ancient harmonic modes also contribute to a simultaneously exotic and ritualistic atmosphere. The vocal lines are as intensely wedded to the text as any in opera, and the ethereal vowels and liquid consonants of the French language are an important part of the soundscape.