We thank guest contributor Richard Rice for this review from Baltimore.
(L to R) Dina Martire (Geneviève), Samuel Bishop (Yniold), David Morris (Arkel), Lisa Eden (Mélisande), and Nathan Wentworth (Golaud) in Impressions of Pelléas, Opera Vivente (photo by Cory Weaver)
Performances were generally strong. Lisa Eden brought warmth and passion to her Mélisande. The character is a puzzle, and one might have wished for more of the underlying dreaminess, so amazingly evoked by Maria Ewing in the 1992 Vienna Philharmonic recording, but the sense of repressed passion was there, along with her growing hysteria. Nathan Wentworth’s Golaud was a delight. He is a singer of precision and power, the latter perfectly nuanced for the space. The undercurrent of vulnerability in the widower, entranced enough to marry impulsively, was missing. At times, this Golaud seemed simply an abusive spouse.
Tenor Kenneth Gayle gave Pelléas both boyish naivety and mounting passion. He navigated Debussy’s chromatic recitatives with the least assurance: more assured was his final arioso, declaring his love in sumptuous diatonic terms. Mr. Gayle seemed to struggle on lower notes at times, suggesting why the role of Pelléas has been sung successfully by lyric baritones. David B. Morris brought a voice of restrained authority to Arkel. Sadly, the illusion of aged wisdom and intimate commerce with Destiny was shaken by makeup reminiscent of Arte Johnson’s Tyrone F. Horneigh. In the face of Golaud’s ravings, this Arkel came off not so much fatalistic as impotent.
Tim Smith, Opera Vivente presents adaptation of Debussy's 'Pelleas et Melisande' (Baltimore Sun, March 9)
John Bowen, Why Impressions of Pelléas? Why Now? (Opera Vivente, February 22)
There is much to be said for small-scale productions that expose audiences to classical musical theater in an intimate, cost-effective way. Surely, there are operas written specifically for such treatment, and others that can benefit from it, but when applied to a score as rich as Debussy’s and a story as inscrutable as Maeterlinck’s, the result seems more like “opera workshop” than true opera.
The final production of Opera Vivente's season, The Magic Flute, runs from May 14 to 22.