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<<  -- 3 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT


The singing, too, is more than adequate, with June Rodgers' Mélisande and William Dazeley's Pelléas imbuing the shilly-shallyings of these blighted beings with intimations of the fairytale prince and princess they might have blossomed into, but for the grim reality of Golaud's self-tormentings which, as presented by Robert Haywood, earn a measure of respect, at least until, at Mélisande's death-scene, he bluntly protests that it was in no way his fault -- at which our hackles belatedly rise, like quills upon the fretful porpentine. Those Opera North stalwarts, Frances MaCafferty as Genéviève and Clive Bayley as Arkel, are as trustworthy as always, and Bayley even succeeds in making the tottery Arkel a frail yardstick of human values in a world of blind folk in a black forest. Thomas Lewis, as (not so) 'little Yniald', proves equal to his role in the tremendous scene when Golaud forces him to spy on the young lovers: when, of course, he fails to see the nothing there is to see.

From left to right, Robert Hayward as Golaud, Joan Rodgers as Mélisande and Clive Bayley as Arkel in Opera North's 2001 production of Pelléas et Mélisande. Photo © Opera North/Richard Moran

As so often with modern opera productions the direction, by Richard Jones, and the sets by Anthony Macdonald, slightly distress viewers as old as I am: I can't see that the four closed doors in an empty corridor which are the first we see make an apter image of our 'lost' state than does Debussy's Dark Forest; and although some of the expressionistically geometric designs, such as the sea-cavern, are startlingly beautiful, the empty white cubicles that serve as the palace apartments lack spiritual resonance. But perhaps their white emptiness in a dark world is the point; and certainly the final scene, in which Mélisande is confronted on her death-bed with Golaud's bullying importunacy, proved painfully moving. That Mélisande dies without having revealed 'la vérité' would seem to be the heart of the human predicament: which has neither physical consummation nor metaphysical consolation, only an intense capacity to feel and a quasi-oriental acceptance of the unknowable mysteries of life, suffering, and death.

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Copyright © 20 January 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK




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