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There is no better production of Pelléas and Mélisande around


There is no better production of Pelléas and Mélisande around

Reviewers on the opera performance

Before we perform Debussy’s only opera at the Vicenza Opera Festival, let us indulge in some of the memorable turns of the critical acclaim earned by the Budapest and Hamburg productions.

Wolfgang Sandner: The music speaks, but the secret remains

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 12 September

“The effect is enormous. First and foremost, for the singer-actors, who are never left on their own, even amid the musical gaps Debussy created, the understated pianissimo passages and the speech-like vocal lines, the orchestral sound that strangely meanders through its almost inextricable linking of chords. Wearing a dark camouflage cloak, Iván Fischer stands in the middle of the happenings, and does not restrict himself to guiding the orchestra, who are particularly agile in the instrumental interludes, and make, naturally, a vocal contribution to the sailor’s choir in the first act. He too is acting, gesturing as if to put his hand on the shoulders of the actors to reassure them or to spur them on to unexpected emotional outbursts. When the boy, Yniold crouches at his feet and plays with his golden ball, Fischer bends down to him benevolently like some grandfatherly Arkel. Pelléas and Mélisande crawl through the undergrowth in front of him, as if the man on the lectern could temporarily save their childlike play from the eruption of deadly love from a madly jealous Golaud.”

In German.

Zoltán Farkas: In the dark forest of our love

Magyar Narancs, 14 September

“The production, whose director is Iván Fischer, has spot-on visuals (set design by Andrea Tocchio), which anticipate the mystical, mysterious nature of what is to come, and immediately draw the audience into the heart of Debussy’s opera. This stage design breathes perfectly in harmony with the music, which does not assert but implies, does not tell but suggests, and is much more expressive and exciting in this mysterious ambiguity than the straightforward, definite language of earlier specimens of its genre.”

“Iván Fischer, whose elf cloak is also covered with leaves, guides the musical processes that represent the happenings on the stage, and even more so in our minds, with a sure hand. Under his baton, the orchestral interludes, the atmospheric and illustrative elements, the outburst of Golaud’s jealous rage and the great climax of the confession of love, all come to life with a richness of detail, a natural flow and the full power of expression. The orchestra’s playing is coherent, rich in color and at all times a reliable and faithful partner to the conductor and the singers. And it is already to the credit of the usual versatility of the Festival Orchestra’s musicians that they also perform the duties of non-speaking characters with natural ease, whether they be the three exhausted paupers found sleeping in the cave or the ‘serving women’ who file in as Mélisande dies.”

In Hungarian.

Miklós Fáy: Heavier than the heaviness of all things

Élet és Irodalom, 15 September

“Phew. And now, on to being delighted, almost without reservations. I for one was swept off my feet from the get-go: there is a forest on the podium, with the Festival Orchestra sitting amid branches, trunks and leaves, and Iván Fischer himself eases his way in modestly, wearing a long cloak decorated with leaves. Now that is cool. Close enough to ridiculousness and a sense of ‘Uncle Ivan and Co. have gone round the bend,’ while all this is in order, as the forest, the darkness, the fog, the mist, the oppressive atmosphere are all important constituents of the opera. But that’s also something to get to grips with, and there are precious few established conductors in the world who would be willing to do it. I like where this is going, this is the old Festival Orchestra, or the old spirit of the Festival Orchestra, doing everything for expression, taking the risk for a possible win.”

“I don’t know if it’s possible, here and now, to win with Pelléas. But someone had to try. [...] Now the Festival Orchestra has played it three times. With a star cast, although what makes Patricia Petibon such a star when she can be so out of tune... No, that’s not fair either. If there is anything wrong with her it is that her Mélisande is overly conscious, as if she dropped the ring in the well deliberately, as if she teased Pelléas all the time, and were not the self-absorbed, self-admiring innocent she is meant to be. However you look at it, go where you will from Asia to the Cape, there is no better production around of Pelléas and Mélisande. If you don’t like it, you really won’t like it.”

In Hungarian.

Antal Tóth: Notes on an act of domestic violence – Pelléas and Mélisande in Müpa Budapest

Café Momus, 15 September

“[...] the playing on the stage was of a high order, the impressionistic colors of the work created the poetic air necessary for the interpretation of the piece.”

“The performance met with the full house and heartfelt ovation that such a discerningly performed rarity deserves.”

In Hungarian.

Marcus Stäbler: Debussy’s opera in the Main Hall: a conductor stands in the forest

Hamburger Abendblatt, 17 September

“Hamburg. So what happened here? A forest has sprung up on the stage of the Elbphilharmonie’s Main Hall. It exudes darkness. The branches quickly interlace. They form a dense thicket in which sit the musicians of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In their green and brown capes they blend into the surroundings.”

“This sounds like an astonishingly straightforward mode of staging. But perhaps a piece that is so full of suggestion and mystery does not need to be made any more cryptic. The characters are mysterious enough as it is.”

“Iván Fischer provides the soloists with enough room to play. The vocal arches, which Debussy composed to fit the natural flow of the French language, are clearly discernible. Fischer finds the ideal balance between the singing and the instrumental sound. With his orchestra, he creates a multitude of hues, pushes into the subtlest branches of the score—creates a dark magical forest in musical terms as well.”

In German.