Pelléas et Mélisande
Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Chiara Skerath, Alexandre Duhamel, Janina Baechle, Jérôme Varnier, Maëlig Querré, Damian Pass ; Choeur de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux; Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine/Pierre Dumoussaud
Alpha Classics ALPHA 752 148:40 mins (2 discs)
An all-French cast and French musicians with a French conductor bode well for this new Pelléas. But there’s many a possible slip between score and performance in a work that presents unique challenges for everyone involved. How do you transform neurasthenia into drama? And in a recording, can you remind the listener that this is music drama where the action is in the margins, in a castle that sits in a liminal space between sea and land, a work that is indoors and underground as much as outdoors and in the light?
Pierre Dumoussaud and the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine respond by making their Pelléas a kind of extended dream, with the score flowing like water around the characters, and the interludes more punctuation than a way of advancing the drama. It’s very beautiful and there is some fine and idiomatic playing, notably from the brass and woodwinds.
As for the cast, you may question Alexandre Duhamel’s diction as Golaud, and admire Chiara Skerath’s Mélisande while finding her tone at times a little thin, but the total effect is greater than the sum of its vocal parts. Stanislas de Barbeyrac is a confused Pelléas and Jérôme Varnier’s Arkel deep-voiced and wise. Yet the only character who doesn’t seem to be sleepwalking is Yniold. Maëlig Querré as the boy sings with genuine pain when his father forces him to report on Pelléas and Mélisande.