The first and only time until Saturday that the Los Angeles Opera had installed Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” was in 1995. The company, later Music Center Opera, was an ambitious nine-year-old freshman in the Music Center with ambitious plans. great that including building the Walt Disney Concert Hall and renovating the historic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The city had high hopes on itself in the process of recovering from the trauma of the early 1990s, including the earthquake. social unrest and economic recession
But Peter Sellars’ 1990s production, which is set in modern-day Malibu Reminds us that we must first look at who we really are. France’s mystical opera debuted in 1902, at a time when Paris was reinventing the arts as a modern city in the 20th century. Where might that lead? What does it mean?
Rather than offer an answer, Debussy created a study on the mess and its consequences. The non-Parisian opera “La Bohème” drifts to the imagination of grandeur in a miserable loft. But the characters are indifferent to their fantasies of destiny and nature.
In the process, Debussy unconsciously opens the opera. The meaning in “Pelléas” is as hidden as in life. Revelation is like a treasure buried beneath the mysterious but undisturbed surface of music. Every detail comprises a piece of the puzzle. Rewards waiting to be discovered That became each director’s job. each singer and each conductor
Cellar was stunned by his findings in a scene that reflected what we were still fighting for. Whether it’s the LAPD threatening the homeless or the deadly family dysfunction hiding in a lavish Malibu mansion. full of racial and sexual connotations Whether admired or saddened, L.A. “Pelléas” proved to be an entirely ominous act.
This time in Chandler. The neon-lit beach setting is replaced by the depressing coolness of the dilapidated castle interior, inspired by the luster found in Dutch painter Vilhelm Hammershøi’s canvases and contemporary Debussy’s You. There is no need to wait for the abnormality to manifest itself. This is evident in every trace of the dark light and every emotionless solid surface of David McVicar’s 2017 production, which LA Opera imported from the Scottish Opera House.
Spooky sets and period costumes by Rae Smith are a royal abode that’s as formal and chilly as it gets. with their environment Still, this has become a true American “Pelléas” in its own right. no french audio The entire cast of consistently great performers, with one exception being from California, Illinois, Iowa, Texas or New York, are full-bodied vocalists. Well trained in the rhetoric of contemporary American opera. singer in our place and time
Of course, Debussy’s operas often ask for something a little different in the precise texturing of Maurice Maeterlinck’s mystical plays. Mélisande is found lost in the woods by Golaud, a hunting prince. She did not reveal her background at all. She responds directly to her environment and those in it. by reflecting back what was said or done to her like a magic mirror from another world Others discovered themselves and their place in the world through her.
She opens up to love for Golaud’s half-brother, Pelléas. She gives a reminder of her youth to her siblings’ grandfather, King Arkel. She brings the view of a woman in need and companionship to the castle of Geneviève, Golaud’s mother, and naive Pelléas. but from all that Melisande is still unfathomable. which is the life force that radiates from another world Her voice is rarely loud. and sometimes almost inaudible Although her music was the most beautiful of all, the opera continued to heat up for three full hours.
Melisande of Sydney Mancasola took on an unusual position. She may be an unknown character. But when sung lively by this versatile soprano, (who will star in Missy Mazzoli’s L.A. opera “Breaking the Waves,” canceled because of the pandemic in 2021). Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” at the Metropolitan Opera and upcoming Malcolm X in Anthony Davis’ “X.” It was Pelleas who looked like a child with enthusiasm. with a smiling high baritone that is easily confirmed
Kyle Ketelsen’s Golaud, who just came from the Met (in his case, Kevin Puts’ “The Hours”) is bubbling up. He is a subdued authority which nurses while his anxiety comes out of hiding as a deadly threat.
But both Susan Graham as Genevieve and Kai Edgar, the 11-year-old soprano who became famous as Eniold Son of Goloa They perform different roles. Whether Arkel is smart or old is a question, to which veteran Italian bassist Ferruccio Furlanetto answers with firm confirmation.
“Pelléas” comes to us courtesy of the company’s music director, James Conlon. In his pre-concert speech which can be heard as the “LAO” podcast. He called Debussy’s opera of change as one of the great works of art. Period. and rewarding the conductor above all else On the recording there are Abbado’s “Pelléas” and those of Karajan and Boulez and Salonen and Rattle.
In Chandler, Conlon’s is slightly more difficult to measure. This was largely due to the difficulty of attaching the “Pelléas” in a space that lacked intimacy and the long-awaited overhaul of the sound system. but full of wealth mellow yet abundant can float up out of the hole heard from the lower seat High pitched instruments are often muted. and some solo verses lack presence A detail that would have flashed in the upstairs seats.
Seven years ago, Salonen held a “Pelléas” concert with the LA Phil across the street at Disney where everything could be heard clearly. Stix that Debussy Chandler resisted the idea of a concert of his opera. The demand for “Pelléas” as the LA Opera is now proving
Moreover As the actors became more familiar with the area They were sure to make significant adjustments over the next three weeks. And always remember: High up in the Chandler is often where you’ll get the best balance, and seats are less expensive than $15 for Debussy’s full opera performance. doesn’t come often And with singers, conductors and scenes at this level That might be the best bargain for performing arts anywhere in America.
‘Pelleas et Melisande’
Sung in French with English subtitles.
where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
when: Until April 16, check the date and time on the website.
Working time: Approximately 3 hours 10 minutes including one intermission
information: laopera.org, (213) 972-8001