24 Feb 2019

DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Mélisande

From Opera on Sunday, 6:00 pm on 24 February 2019
Isabel Leonard as Mélisande & Paul Appleby as Pelléas

Isabel Leonard as Mélisande & Paul Appleby as Pelléas Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

Metropolitan Opera Season: Pelléas et Mélisande

Sunday 24 February 2019 at 6pm on RNZ Concert

Cast:

Paul Appleby (Pelléas), Isabel Leonard (Mélisande), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Geneviève), Kyle Ketelsen (Golaud), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Arkel), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Paul Appleby as Pelléas & Isabel Leonard as Mélisande

Paul Appleby as Pelléas & Isabel Leonard as Mélisande Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

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.

Kyle Ketelsen as Golaud & Isabel Leonard as Mélisande

Kyle Ketelsen as Golaud & Isabel Leonard as Mélisande Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949), who penned the source play, was deeply involved in the Symbolist movement. 

Isabel Leonard as Mélisande

Isabel Leonard as Mélisande Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

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.

Isabel Leonard as Mélisande & Ferruccio Furlanetto as Arkel

Isabel Leonard as Mélisande & Ferruccio Furlanetto as Arkel Photo: Karen Almond/Met Opera

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.

Synopsis of Pelléas et Mélisande

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