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Dessay Shines in First Mélisande

Other Reviews:

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)
As I mentioned this summer (Dessay and Solfege, August 9), Natalie Dessay apparently learned the role of Mélisande for her first Pelléas with French conductor Stéphane Denève feeding it to her note by note from the piano. Well, she gave that concert performance, with Denève at the podium of his new group, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Andrew Clements was there to review it (Pelléas et Mélisande, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, October 11) for The Guardian:
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.

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.
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.


Akimon Azuki said...

I think Dessay has performed at the WNO- opening gala even- couple of years ago, hasn’t she? But I think the closest we get to having her in Washington any time soon is this PBS showing of that strange Nightingale movie:
The page is little cryptic on the actual air date- it’s December 21. Funny that there is no room for the date, but there’s plenty of room for pictorial blurb of La Fleming peddling her Sacred Performance of Holy Sacchariness in November. I reckon the American Union of Sugar Producers chipped in to sponsor that…

Charles T. Downey said...

I suggested that WNO should stage Massenet's "Esclarmonde," with Dessay in the title role. I don't think that's likely to happen either, for any number of reasons. But when she does go to Scotland, with a good male cast, too, and a conductor well reputed in the opera, the hall is a third full? Was it just bad publicity and press work?

Akimon Azuki said...

well, the review in the Independent, which I just read this morning said something along the lines of: "given the Scots' apparent indifference to high-quality music-making..."- pretty harsh statement, but given the financial troubles of Scottish music institutions, it looks like the combination of inadequate marketing and general feelings of doldrums all add up to the woeful state of attendance, Dessay or not. The article is here: