Festival Vancouver
Opera in Concert

Pelleas and Melisande
by Claude Debussy
libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck
in French with English surtitles

Dates: 15 August, 2003
Venue: Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: Jane Penistan


Conductor  Jonathan Darlington Production Stage Manager Martin Elfert Rehearsal Stage Manager  Sheila Munn

Melisande  Nathalie Paulin Pelleas  Russell Braun
Genevieve  Jean Stilwell Golaud Alain Coulombe
Arkel Gaetan Laperriere Yniold Jennifer Farrell Berger, medecin Jonathan Liebich

Pelleas image In this Opera in Concert performance of Pelleas et Melisande, under the baton of Jonathan Darlington the Vancouver Opera Orchestra realized all Debussy's mysterious enchantment, depth of feeling and inevitable endless rhythm of the distant sea. The orchestra never overpowered the singers but supported them in supplying the gloomy atmosphere of the oppressive castle, or the serene garden in the tree girt, sea bound demesne.

As Melisande Nathalie Paulin was fragile and childlike, growing into a more assured and charming woman. Her delicate and tasteful singing was perfect Melisande. Russell Braun's rich baritone and musical interpretation of Pelleas could not have been more desirable. Gaetan Laperriere presented a forceful and passionate Golaud while the beautiful deep bass of Alain Coulombe brought the wisdom and serenity of the aged Arkel to calm the storms of passion or to comfort melancholy and sadness.





It is always a joy to hear Jean Stilwell, and in this short appearance as Genevieve she could not disappoint. Jennifer Farrell brought a youthful charm to Yniold, Golaud's son. Also in this stellar cast was Jonathan Liebich, as a shepherd and the doctor.

Since this opera was not staged but sung as a concert the listeners were much more aware of the full impact of the atmospheric and impressionistic music of Debussy. The singers had to convey all their emotion and interaction through voice alone and this they did with incredible success. Perhaps this is the ideal way to experience Pelleas and Melisande. It was certainly an exceptional experience in the bringing together of so much vocal talent with the inspired interpretation of the orchestra and singers, conducted by Jonathan Darlington.

Festival Vancouver and the Vancouver Opera are to be congratulated on this unusual and most enjoyable production.

2003, Jane Penistan