Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Pelléas et Mélisande
PERFORMER: Camille Maurane, Janine Micheau, Michel Roux, Xavier Depraz, Annik Simon, Rita Gorr; Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux/Jean Fournet
CATALOGUE NO: 434 783-2 ADD mono
The critic Malcolm Hayes once proposed that Debussy’s only complete opera might be more appropriately titled L’amour de Golaud, on the grounds that he is the only truly rounded character. This recording, made in Paris in 1953, adheres firmly to that dictum. Michel Roux’s Golaud is so forceful, so dark and brutish, and so mad with jealousy that he dominates the proceedings absolutely. But though this changes the focus – the eponymous lovers become somehow catalysts rather than protagonists – it does not detract from the other performances. Camille Maurane is an attractive Pelléas, but the ardour he feels for Janine Micheau’s tremulous and touchingly innocent Mélisande seems incidental when compared with the passion – however negative – expressed by his half-brother. Of the supporting cast, both Annik Simon’s boyish and bemused Yniold and Xavier Depraz’s wise and weighty Arkel are outstanding.


If Ernest Ansermet’s sublimely magical recording from the previous year (reviewed last month) emphasised the opera’s mysterious side, this is a version grounded in realism – these are real people with credible emotions, not merely characters from a fairytale – a sense sustained by startlingly clear sound (remarkable given the age of the recording), exemplary diction, and augmented by dazzling playing from the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux, under Jean Fournet. Claire Wrathall