For me, this production is one of the weaker ones on DVD, the Boulez-conducted and Graham Vick-directed and 2009 productions both being superior(though the 2009 one has a few big flaws, the Boulez one is perfection and Vick's is also great) but it's far better than the remote and visually dull 1987 and the ugly and bizarre 2004 Zurich production.
It's by no means a bad one because musically the production is just brilliant, actually close to perfection and one of the better DVD performances in this regard. A big shout out has to go to Stephane Degout's exceptional Pelleas, he was also one of the standouts in the 2009 performance, his voice is unstrained at the top, rich in the middle register and his bottom notes are resonant, easily one of the best sung Pelleas's on DVD. His acting is just as wonderful, the ardent intensity is there and it is even more fiery, passionate, poignant and erotic than his earlier performance. He is very well matched by Elena Tsallagova in a nuanced and deeply felt portrayal if more understated and less coquettish than most Melisandes and her voice is beautiful if a little light. As well as the Golaud of Vincent Le Texier, his Golaud is menacing and conflicted and not even Jose Van Dam, Donald Maxwell or John Tomlinson were this poignant in the final act. His voice is deep and dark, almost Wagnerian, actually appropriate.
Franz Josef Selig is a dignified King Arkel and sings powerfully and Ann Sophie Von Otter is restrained and moving as Genevieve. Julie Mathevet also plays Ynoild with conviction, one really feels sorry for the character. The orchestra play with resplendent tone that is rich with depth and Debussy's very sustained phrasing flows seamlessly, the ending of Act 4 being the highlight, also the most convincingly staged, and done with such intensity. Philippe Jordan's conducting is wonderfully supple and beautifully judged, the only reservation being the Act 1 forest scene which is a little ponderous and heavy, a more lyrical sound and less Wagnerian approach would have been more welcome. The sets are also pretty good, the scene changes having a gliding effect which came over cleverly and effectively.
But the staging really lets the production down, the chemistry between the performers is lacking with the interactions being rather detached(only the relationship between Pelleas and Melisande convinces), with the exceptions being of the end of Act 4 and the final scene and. Robert Wilson's directing style has always been an acquired taste but here it is very static, very isolated and uninvolving, heavy in gestures but in an unappealingly distant fashion. The Act 3 tower scene is one of the opera's highlights, and was especially telling in the Graham Vick production but it is really lacking in sensuality here. The lighting is almost sickly and one-note, there is a lot of blue but not much other colours. Another huge let down is the sound quality and the balance, the sound is very muffled and distorted, as well as constantly breaking up, and it is balanced badly throughout, favouring the orchestra over the singers sometimes but again the distortion is distracting.
Overall, I cannot fault this production musically but while it is nowhere near as bad as that for the Zurich production the staging was just not to my taste and the sound quality doesn't do the production justice. A mildly recommended 6/10. Bethany Cox
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2 hr 48 min