Pelleas Et Melisande Glyndenbourne, East Sussex Until Aug 9
Having spent the summer wondering why Glyndebourne began this season with three straight revivals, following this dramatically dismal Pelléas I wondered why they had changed from a perfectly workable production in favour of a new one by controversial Norwegian director Stefan Herheim.
The earlier one would at least have given the singers a chance to shine, instead of their contribution being all too often submerged by Herheim’s pretentious banalities, and occasional serious nastiness, as when Golaud rapes his young son Yniold at the end of Act III.
Robin Ticciati, recovered from his back problems, draws some glorious playing of Debussy’s music from the London Philharmonic, even if his interpretation will be too romantic for some.
All the singing is of good quality, with a pleasing Mélisande from Christina Gansch and a winning Pelléas from John Chest (both above)
Some of Herheim’s ‘insights’ merely amuse. While the family are sitting around the dining table, the organ pipes spring open to reveal Christ with a lamb over his shoulder
All the singing is of good quality, with a pleasing Mélisande from Christina Gansch, a winning Pelléas from John Chest, and a musically persuasive Golaud from Christopher Purves. Brindley Sherratt as King Arkel was unwell for the first night but sang the second performance, which I attended, with real authority.
Turning, with a sigh, to Herheim, he fails at every level. He confuses the plot so much, if you don’t know the story, you still won’t by the end.
Part of the problem is setting this drama of the seashore and forest in a re-creation of Glyndebourne’s organ room. They keep doing that sort of thing, and shouldn’t. It suggests a self-obsession, never appropriate, and certainly not now that the festival is at a comparatively low ebb artistically.
Chloé Briot (above) as Yniold and Christopher Purves
IT’S A FACT
Debussy had a volatile love life. He was married only twice but had numerous affairs and drove two of his amours to attempted suicide.
At the end of the drama, gawpers, taking photographs as they do in real life, wander into the organ room, plumbing the depths of banality. Get over yourself, Glyndebourne!
Some of Herheim’s ‘insights’ merely amuse. While the family are sitting around the dining table, the organ pipes spring open to reveal Christ with a lamb over his shoulder. ‘Lunch,’ cried one well-oiled audience member, to general amusement.
The rape scene, though, isn’t funny, and was the cause of much controversy during the dinner interval. Six people in the expensive stalls seats around me didn’t return for the second half. Can Glyndebourne, a non-subsidised house, really afford to offend these patrons when the cause of it is totally gratuitous?
Some directors seem to be addicted to sexual violence, which always makes audiences uncomfortable, and is now, I believe, totally unacceptable.
Discuss this kind of stuff privately with your shrink, Mr Herheim, or take a cold bath. But keep us out of it.
Falstaff Royal Opera House, London Until Sat
The magnificent Bryn Terfel, as big a personality as he is a singer, is a perfect Lord of Misrule, whether he’s singing Verdi’s Falstaff or not. He was the fat knight back in 2003, when very young. And now, in his early 50s, he returns with a perfect characterisation, making the role his own.
The magnificent Bryn Terfel, as big a personality as he is a singer, is a perfect Lord of Misrule, whether he’s singing Verdi’s Falstaff or not
His supporting cast here is a bit mixed, and doesn’t outclass little Garsington, whose new Falstaff I praised so much last month. It’s good to have Simon Keenlyside back, but he’s a somewhat featureless Ford, nothing like as characterful as Richard Burkhard at Garsington. Similarly, Ana María Martínez is a shrill Alice, not a patch on Garsington’s Mary Dunleavy. In the pit, Nicola Luisotti is plainly outclassed by Garsington’s Richard Farnes.
I get why an international opera house like Covent Garden has to import big stars, but an American in the role of Pistol? Gratuitous
But Frédéric Antoun and Anna Prohaska here are excellent as the lovers Fenton and Nannetta, and once again, a big chunk of the show is stolen by Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Mistress Quickly. As she cradles Falstaff’s head in her capacious bosom, you know you’ve got quite a show here.
A quibble, though. I get why an international opera house like Covent Garden has to import big stars, but an American in the role of Pistol? Gratuitous.