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Franz Welser-Möst conducts admirably, as if he has no idea what's happening on stage. If he ever gave a lead to one of the waxworks, I was not in a position to tell. And how glorious a work it is, from the moment that Michael Volle's Golaud meets the strange waiflike Mélisande who cannot endure his touch [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 3, 4:14-5:16]. The atmosphere is irresistibly haunting while the younger brother Pelléas wanders in the overhung gardens with Cornelia Kallisch as his mother Geneviève and the wayward Mélisande [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 8, 25:42-26:57]. That Mélisande will drop her wedding-ring into a well is an occasion for Pelléas to draw closer to her but also for the jealous wrath of her husband Golaud.

Isabel Rey as Mélisande and Rodney Gilfry as Pelléas. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opernhaus Zürich
Isabel Rey as Mélisande and Rodney Gilfry as Pelléas. DVD screenshot © 2004 Opernhaus Zürich

The climactic moment is when, to the importunings of Pelléas, Mélisande lets down her hair for his wonderment and incredulous delight. Debussy is not for an instant put off that Pelléas is seated at the wheel of the Citroen [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 18, 61:55-63:54]. The love of the young pair develops imperceptibly, and neither quite knows what is happening. Golaud is sure he understands only too clearly and now it is he who, coming back through the dense forest (or after collision with an iceberg) with a scratched face, refuses to let Mélisande approach or touch him. He is after his dagger, which is lying on the prie-dieu [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 3, 8:25-9:43].

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Copyright © 13 July 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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All Risks Musical - an irreverent guide to the music profession by Alice McVeigh