Sarah Jones, Pelléas et Mélisande (The Scotsman, October 10)
Conrad Wilson, Pelléas et Mélisande, Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Glasgow Herald, October 10)
'Lucky opera' launches the RSNO season (Sunday Times, October 2)
Because it is so contained and concentrated, Debussy's tragedy adapts well to the concert hall. This was a semi-staging, with some dramatic glosses provided by director Emmanuelle Cordoliani, most of which seemed to centre upon the character of Yniold, Golaud's son. Sung by soprano Emmanuelle de Negri, he was ever-present, either observing the unfolding of the tragedy or sitting with his head buried in a book - as if this were a story woven out of his imagination. But it was all a bit of an irrelevance, for the vivid presentation of the score by Denève and his singers held the attention, with the RSNO supplying vivid detail and creating transparent textures that perfectly supported the voices.A third full? Oh, say it isn't so. Please take this concert performance on the road, and make sure it comes to Washington. You know, Washington National Opera apparently hasn't mounted Debussy's marvelous opera since the first time it did so, way back in the 1959–1960 season.
Dessay's performance suggested that this was a role she should take on stage sooner rather than later. Her beautifully sung Mélisande was not the conventional wan, frail wraith, but someone more calculating and self-willed. Accordingly, Laurent Naouri as Golaud, her husband, was less the usual overbearing bully and more an uncomprehending victim of her manipulations. There was a baritone Pelléas, Jean-François Lapointe, with a compelling stage presence and convincingly natural delivery. Robert Lloyd was a slightly forbidding Arkel and Catherine Wyn-Rogers an anguished Geneviève. Denève kept the drama moving, never allowing it to get maudlin. However, a performance of such quality deserved a far larger audience: the Royal Concert Hall was barely a third full.