Pelleas and Melisande
Opera Magazine (Andrew Clark, August 2022 Edition, pp 1032-1034):
“Using a new reduced orchestration by Matthew Rooke..the performance had all the intimacy and luminosity that one could hope for. There was no perceptible loss of texture and Michael Downes’s idiomatic musical direction honoured the score’s subtlety and intricacy. Kally Lloyd-Jones’s spare staging, designed by Janis Hart and shrouded in darkness relied on hand-held spotlights to illuminate the singers and a sprinkling of decorative motifs.
The performance style, seamlessly fusing music and theatre, compelled attention on verbal and physical expression..”
“The Pelleas-Melisande flirtations of Acts 2 and 3 were particularly well realized – magically so in the tower scene..”
Munro’s Melisande was neither waif nor enigma, rather an adolescent on the cusp of womanhood, vocalized with appealing candour and purity. Robert’s virginal Pelleas… was sung with delicacy. Berry’s Golaud, manly and expressive, was the productions mainstay. The excellent Yniold was Rebecca Black, and Brannon Liston-Smith contributed and effective Doctor/Shepherd. As for the impressively assured Catriona Kadirkamanathan, it is hard to imagine a more alluring, luscious-sounding Genevieve: she lit up every scene in which she appeared.”
Voice of the Carnyx
The first night of a radical revision of a crucial work in the operatic canon this may have been – and one involving a good number of less-than-experienced talents at that – but there was an impressive atmosphere of relaxed professionalism around Byre Opera’s chamber version of Claude Debussy’s masterpiece on Wednesday evening.
Lloyd-Jones and her designer Janis Hart make the fullest use of the venue in their black-and-gold staging. It emerges from the architecture of the McPherson Recital Room, the adaptable 13-piece band in the midst of the action and the auditorium and off-stage areas part of the sonic mix. With mirrored cubes and flying arches becoming pools, caves, beds, towers and windows, and the cast proving themselves adept stage managers and follow-spot operators as well as actors and singers, the production is stylish and splendidly lucid. Maurice Maeterlinck’s symbolist narrative has the clearest exposition, helped in no small measure by a healthy leavening of ironic wit in Galloway’s dialogues between the characters.
Soprano Rachel Munro…. is more than equal to the task, while her Pelleas, Sebastian Roberts, makes a remarkably assured step up from G&S to his first opera role. The instrumentalists, led by Lucy Russell, first violin of the Laidlaw’s resident string quartet, the Fitzwilliam, have a very busy time of it, two of the violinists doubling on viola, and harpist Sharon Griffiths adding the timpani line to her part. Rooke’s arrangement also makes crucial use of Anne Page’s harmonium, and cuts nothing from the full score. It often sounds as if it might have come from the pen of the French composer himself and seems very likely to find further productions.
“Pelleas and Melisande was also the first opera to be staged at the new Laidlaw Music Centre in St Andrews. This visually impressive venue turns out to be a highly successful one…. the hall was full and the sound lovely and warm.
For this production a new chamber orchestration had been prepared by Matthew Rooke. There was a band of thirteen players, many doubling or tripling instruments, and the unusual sounds of a harmonium contributing to the mix. The quality of playing was excellent, hardly surprising with Lucy Russell, the first violin of the Fitzwilliam Quartet, in residence at St Andrews, leading the ensemble. Michael Downes had complete control over his forces, drawing out lots of choice playing”.
“Perhaps best of all was the Golaud, James Berry. Berry is already launched on a developing professional career (including the forthcoming Edinburgh International Festival) and that experience shows. His tortured characterisation was superbly done. The other roles are all shorter, but were also handled with confidence, and overall drew attention and engagement in what grew to become a hugely effective company performance. Many of the audience were completely unfamiliar with the opera. The hugely enthusiastic reception, thoroughly deserved, indicate that this successful new orchestration should travel with equal effect elsewhere.”