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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    IRRESISTIBLY HAUNTING


I enjoyed equally sharing the polar wastes with Madame Tussaud, a distinguished and pleasing companion. She had obligingly made waxworks of all the characters, so that song might be addressed at one moment to some mysterious inhabitant of Maeterlinck's cobwebbed dream world, at the next to an inert model which naturally had little to say. It remains to comment gratefully to the Social Services for providing a sufficiency of wheelchairs to accommodate indiscriminately both human and lay figure. If my final reaction was to snaffle, if possible, one of the wheelchairs for an old age much hastened by this production, TDK and the Zürich opera house have only themselves to blame.

Waxworks in wheelchairs. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opernhaus Zürich
Waxworks in wheelchairs. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opernhaus Zürich

It was clear at once that visually Maeterlinck and Debussy were to be frozen out. But there is no avoiding those elusive words, the persistent negatives, denials and disclaimers that disembody so much of the action, to say nothing of Debussy's careful incorporation of speech rhythms into his hallucinatory harmonies that move so unobtrusively and tellingly. When the stage is at odds with both drama and music, even more depends on the performance of the main characters. If the Pélleas of Rodney Gilfry is more convincing than Isabel Rey's Mélisande, it is not just because he is allowed his inevitable death, but also because she suggests not the fragility that should finally undo her but rather an underlying competence that might have made of her a successful castle-manager.

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Copyright © 13 July 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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