"This nicely presented disc offers a thoughtfully planned Fauré programme, and brings the beautiful Pelléas et Mélisande music before a wider public, alongside the more popular Requiem and Pavane. In fact the performance (and recording too) of Pelléas is more successful than those of the other items. David Zinman chooses appropriate tempi to allow the essential sensitivity of the elusive subject of forbidden love to be felt through some of Fauré's most beautiful music. And full marks to the Rotterdam orchestra, who play quite wonderfully in music which does not exactly encourage us to acknowledge their virtuosity. Jill Gomez is on top form, too, in Mélisande's song…" ~musicweb-international
A mysteroius childlike woman, a murder by jealousy, an orphan: Debussy’s Pelléas et Méllisande, his only completed opera, is full of magical, cryptical and deeply symbolic moments. With this work Debussy added quite literally a new dimension to the 1893 stage play of the same name by Belgian playwriter and poet, Maurice Maeterlinck, who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911. Rodney Gilfry, a leading American opera baritone whos vocal excellence has been repeatedly extolled by many leading music critics, is Pelléas. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “rich, rolling baritone with a superb upper range,” as well as his “vivid stage presence,” Rodney Gilfry has established himself as a most compelling musician on the world’s operatic stages. By his side Isabel Rey, internationally recognised for her exquisite vocal technique and her sensitive acting skills, is Mélisande. Due to her crystal-clear soprano and the winterly stage setting the cold dream-world of the subconscious emerges to the audience. Because of the fabulous soloist and a distinguished cast this opera promises outstanding listening pleasure. Under Franz Welser-Möst’s fabulous conducting this production of the Zurich Opera House is setting musical standards. Welser- Möst is ecxeptionally talented and internationally known as one of the outstanding personalities in the field of classical music. In conjunction with the director Sven-Eric Bechtolf, he has developed into one of the leading teams in contemporary music theater.
Peter Stein staged the work for Welsh National Opera in 1992 and won universal praise, as did Pierre Boulez for his conducting. Within austere, wholly appropriate sets, beautifully lit by Jean Kalman, Stein catches the very essence of this singular and elusive piece. Each of the 15 scenes is given its own distinctive décor in which the action is played out on several levels – high for the tower scenes, low for the eerie, subterranean grottoes, for instance. A masterstroke is the subtle evolution from one scene to another in view of the audience, offering a visual counterpoint to the interludes. Stein sees that Debussy's instructions are scrupulously observed. In fact, as a whole, this is an object-lesson in modern staging. Stein and his collaborators reflect the ebb and flow of crude realism and fragile dream-life that permeate the score, which Boulez has identified as lying at its heart. Director and conductor worked closely with each other over a six-week rehearsal period, something unlikely to occur today, so Boulez's interpretation is in complete accord with the staging, his musical direction at once direct and luminous, timbres finely balanced one with the other.
Soprano Natalie Dessay leaves the dizzy heights of Bellini’s Amina, Donizetti’s Marie and Massenet’s Manon to inhabit the more discreet emotional and vocal world of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande with a cast of fellow francophones…
Pelleas et Melisande is Faure's finest set of incidental music, and Marriner catches very well its supple movement, its rise and fall of intensity. His performance of Masques et bergamasques has similar virtues.