WNO Chief Executive and Artistic Director David Pountney talks about Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande as he takes a break from rehearsals
Jurgita Adamonyté (Mélisande) and Rebecca Bottone (Yniold).
ASIW: Why have you chosen a new Pelléas and Mélisande for this particular season?
DP: It could hardly be a more different opera to Peter Pan, but there is a fascinating comparison between Peter Pan and Mélisande – both apparently innocent characters who nonetheless have the ability to cause a deal of harm.
ASIW: Do you think Pelléas and Mélisande has a theatrical appeal for opera audiences as well as a musical appeal?
DP: The opera is a superb piece of drama, utterly gripping. Of course it is not a rip-roaring melodrama in the Verdian mould – but with its infinitely subtle ambiguities, closer to a Chekovian drama, but which nonetheless packs a very powerful emotional and erotic punch.
Jurgita Adamonyté (Mélisande)
Jacques Imbrailo (Pelleas) and Jurgita Adamonyté (Mélisande)
ASIW: Can you tell me the dramatic interpretation and inspiration for the production?
DP: We have based our production within a developed version of our Lulu designs from 2013, deliberately so because both works explore a character – Lulu and Mélisande – who is more of a “spirit” or “force” than a conventional “character”. Both women arrive without background, antecedents, their ancestry shrouded in mystery and have a devastating impact on the “normal people” who encounter them.
ASIW: WNO has strong recent “German” credentials. Has the French repertoire been under-represented for any particular reason?
DP: This in part obviously is the result of Lothar Koenigs’ remarkable expertise in the German repertoire. It makes sense to explore the special abilities of your music director, especially when they are as exceptional as in Lothar’s case. Pelléas and Mélisande, with its clear reference to and development from the language of Tristan und Isolde is a perfect project for Lothar.
Jacques Imbrailo (Pelléas) and Christopher Purves (Golaud)
ASIW: With the above question in mind is this an opportunity or challenge for the Orchestra?
DP: Pelléas and Mélisande is one of the most sumptuous, nuanced and detailed of orchestral scores, so a superb opportunity for our orchestra which is playing so well at the moment.
ASIW: For those with good memories, will Boulez and Stein be a hard double act to follow?
DP: I would not want to equate myself to Peter Stein – I have failed to conjure up a live sheep for my staging, but I have no hesitation in saying that Lothar will live up to memories of Boulez in his music making though not, of course, in his renown.
Scott Wilde (Arkel) and Leah-Marian Jones (Geneviève)
ASIW: Are there artists in the cast and creative team with whom the company has an ongoing relationship?
DP: Jurgita Adamonyté studied in Cardiff with Dennis O’Neill, and has sung Cherubino and Hansel with us. Jacques Imbrailo sang Barber for us. The creative team is the same as for Khovanschina and Lulu.
ASIW: How would you describe why and what audiences will enjoy this opera and particular production?
DP: An exquisite orchestral pallet, a riveting and intense drama, an ideal cast and Marie-Jeanne Lecca’s very elegant costumes which cleverly blend the Medieval with early 20th century.
ASIW: What are you most looking forward to on opening night?
DP: The end of Act 4 – the great love scene between Pelléas and Mélisande – one of the most passionate and erotic scenes ever composed.
Pelléas and Mélisande opens on Friday 29 May, with performances in the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 6 June and then touring to Birmingham Hippodrome. www.wno.org.uk/whats-on