So, I was able to catch part of what is likely my final Met opera broadcast in Washington this afternoon. (That is, if the Board of Trustees carries through on its plan to switch local radio station WETA from classical music to an all-news format. If you haven't yet, write them with some advice about how to remove their heads from their asses. Use the form on the right, "Feedback on radio.") Sorry if you missed it because I didn't warn you about it here, but I had forgotten until I turned the radio on that this week it was Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, which dating from 1902 just makes it in under the wire as a 20th-century opera. It's a strange, beautiful, and (for me, anyway) sinister work. Arkel and his whole family creep me out. Something twisted is deep in the roots of those people.
As the happily revived Sieglinde's Diaries noted, this is the 107th performance of the opera at the Met, which seems a surprisingly high number. (Is it possible that it was really Sieglinde's first time experiencing the opera?) What a cast! Jose van Dam, fresh off the exhausting autocrucifixion that is Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise in Paris this fall, came to New York with his renowned rendition of Golaud, joining Anne Sofie von Otter (Mélisande), Felicity Palmer (Geneviève), and William Burden (Pelléas). For me, though, it was the chance to hear van Dam's Golaud live, even if not in person, that was the thrill. He sounded great, if not perhaps as powerful as when he was younger. He snarled with rage as he terrified his son, Yniold (a very good boy soprano), and even worse as he continued to abuse Mélisande on her death bed, not to mention the horrible hair-pulling scene ("A droite, puis à gauche!"). The minor role of the Doctor was sung by Patrick Carfizzi, whom I knew in passing back when he was an undergraduate at Catholic University here in Washington. He went on to Yale and the Met and seems to be doing quite well.
For more information, you can read these reviews of the production:
- Anthony Tommasini, Savoring Debussy's 'Pelléas' (International Herald Tribune, January 19, originally in the New York Times)
- Ronald Blum, Staging Hampers Met's 'Pelleas' (Associated Press, January 30)
- Anne Midgette, The Dreams of Debussy With an Italian Inflection (New York Times, January 31)