A Disarming Pelléas et Mélisande

Debussy’s Ill-Fated Love, Stripped of All but Its Power
You cannot blame this longtime lover of Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” for being suspicious when L’Opéra Français de New York announced that it would present a staged production of the work in its “original version” for voices and piano. No orchestra? Wasn’t this small company simply producing the opera on the cheap?
The L’Opéra Français production opened on Wednesday night at the French Institute Alliance Française on East 59th Street, and it was a revelation.
Here was Debussy’s landmark opera presented in the institute’s intimate Gould Hall in a simple yet gripping modern staging, performed by an appealing cast and the sensitive and tireless pianist Raphael Rochet. Imagine “Pelléas” as psychological theater, as engrossing chamber opera. Those who know the work well, or not at all, and those planning to attend the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Jonathan Miller’s production, which opens Jan. 29, should not miss the final performance of L’Opéra Français’s production tonight.
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