Pelleas et Melisande

Claude Debussy - Autumn 2015

In a dark castle weighed down by grief, a widower has brought home a mysterious young girl. When an attraction develops between the girl and his brother, the family is shattered. Delicate, erotic, and menacing by turns, this is an opera like no other.

Arranged by 
Annelies Van Parys
Conductor 
Jonathan Berman
Director 
James Conway
Designer 
Oliver Townsend
Lighting Designer 
Mark Howland

Wonderfully done.

4 STARS, Guardian

A gripping evening in the theatre.

Sunday Times

The instrumentation’s bright variety somehow makes the music more like Debussy, not less. And the lack of fuss in ETO’s show allows audiences to focus on what matters most: the words sung, the thoughts expressed.

4 STARS, The Times

Conway directs with expertise: even with its multiple ambiguities, the narrative maintains focus and the characterisations conviction.

4 STARS, The Stage

English Touring Opera has cast its production brilliantly: Jonathan McGovern is an unforgettable Pelléas.

WhatsOnStage

The chance to hear a Pelléas this good at venues right across the country is a rare one, and one that should be seized.

The Arts Desk

There is no other opera like Pelléas et Mélisande. For years Debussy searched for the perfect drama to set, and once he saw the strange, compelling play by Maurice Maeterlinck he had no doubt that this was it. The resulting marriage of music and drama is sensuous, mysterious, utterly captivating. For no other opera is the sensation of being ‘under a spell’ so applicable.

In a way, the drama is simple: a very intense widower brings home a simple girl, and marries her; when there are signs of her attachment to his young half-brother, he is violently jealous. But this is one of those dramas where what is unsaid is as important as what is said – and this is where Debussy’s wonderful score makes its magic. The mysterious setting of the remote castle by the sea, the terrific tension as the childlike lovers approach their doom, and the profound examination of character and fate all do their work: Pelléas et Mélisande affects everyone who sees it in an unforgettable way.

Belgian composer Annelies Van Parys’s sensitive, transparent arrangement has been much praised on the continent, and receives its UK premiere in this production, directed by James Conway with Jonathan McGovern, Susanna Hurrell and Stephan Loges in the central roles.

New production, sung in French with English surtitles
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (incl. interval)
Age guidance: 10+

Discover more

10 questions for ETO’s Pelléas Jonathan McGovern
10 questions for soprano Susanna Hurrell

Season podcast and music playlist

Showing At

  1. Royal College of Music
    1st Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  2. Royal College of Music
    3rd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  3. Buxton Opera House
    16th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  4. Malvern Theatres
    22nd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  5. Harrogate Theatre
    30th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  6. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
    7th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  7. Theatre Royal Bath
    9th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall
    13th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    20th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  1. Royal College of Music — 1st Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BS

  2. Royal College of Music — 3rd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BS

  3. Buxton Opera House — 16th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Water Street, SK17 6XN

  4. Malvern Theatres — 22nd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Malvern Theatres, Grange Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3HB

  5. Harrogate Theatre — 30th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Harrogate Theatre, Oxford Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1QF

  6. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge — 7th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm

    11 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

  7. Theatre Royal Bath — 9th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET

  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall — 13th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Aldeburgh Music, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Snape, Suffolk, IP17 1SP

  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre — 20th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Exeter Northcott, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QB

Annelies Van Parys

Annelies Van Parys

Arranged by

Jonathan Berman

Jonathan Berman

Conductor

James Conway

James Conway

Director

As General Director of ETO for 17 years and ETO’s Artistic Director since April 2019, James Conway has directed productions of operas by Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Janácek, Puccini, Debussy, Ullmann, Britten and Tippett, as well as a world premiere by Alexander Goehr. Before coming to ETO he was General Director of Opera Theatre Company in Dublin; his productions for that company travelled to New York (Brooklyn Academy of Music), and to festivals in Melbourne, London, Buxton, Paris, Dusseldorf, Prague, Brno, Lisbon and Porto. Notable among his freelance directing is the long-running production of The Cunning Little Vixen at the Janácek Theatre, Brno.

Oliver Townsend

Oliver Townsend

Designer

Oli’s previous work with ETO includes The Lighthouse, Pelleas et Melisande, Werther, and The Tales of Hoffmann. Recent designs include Macbeth (Royal Exchange), The Caretaker (Bristol Old Vic) and Choir of Man (worldwide). Over the years he has enjoyed collaborating with a wide range of companies; from RashDash and The Lyric Hammersmith to Scottish Opera and ENO. In 2018, Oli cycled from Bristol to Bangkok, collecting accounts of kindness for the project; ‘In Tandem Stories’. He has written for The Guardian, Lonely Planet, and WildBounds, and lives on a narrowboat; currently on the Grand Union Canal.

Mark Howland

Mark Howland

Lighting Designer

Mark studied, briefly, at Oxford University prior to training in Stage Lighting Design at RADA.

Previously for ETO: Dardanus, Tosca, Patience, Ulysses’ Homecoming, La Calisto, Xerxes, The Tales of Hoffmann, Werther, Pelleas et Melisande, La Boheme, The Siege of Calais, Wild Man of the West Indies.

Other designs include: La Rondine, Don Giovanni (Opera Holland Park); Twelve Angry Men (Birmingham Rep & West End); Elixir of Love, Rodelinda (Scottish Opera); Sweeney Todd (Aarhus Theatre, Denmark); Singin’ in the Rain (Det Ny Teater, Copenhagen) and numerous productions for The Gate Theatre London, The Curve, Nottingham Playhouse, Lyric Theatre Belfast amongst many others.

Cast

Jonathan McGovern

Jonathan McGovern

Pelleas

A graduate of King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Music, Jonathan McGovern has since distinguished himself as a young artist of great promise. Upcoming highlights include Robert Carsen’s production of Les fêtes vénitiennes with Les Arts Florissants under Bill Christie on tour in Toulouse and New York, as well as his role and company debut as Pelleas (Pelléas et Mélisande) in a new production for English Touring Opera. Further ahead Jonathan makes debuts with Staatsoper Hamburg and Garsington Opera.

Recent engagements have included an outstanding debut as Junior in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place with Ensemble Modern under Kent Nagano at the Konzerthaus Berlin, Konzerthaus Dortmund and Dresdner Musikfestspiele. He also sang the role of Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia) at the Verbier Festival, the title role in Il ritorno d’Ulisse under Christian Curnyn and the title role in Telemann’s Orpheus under Ian Page at the London Handel Festival. Concert highlights have included Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy at the Verbier Festival under Charles Dutoit, Carmina Burana at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the NDR Podium der Jungen under Andrew Litton and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra under Daniel Cohen.

Further highlights this season include Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas) under Trevor Pinnock at the Wigmore Hall, Alidoro in Cesti’s Orontea with La Nuova Musica under David Bates and Pilate in Luigi Rossi’s Per la settimana santa at the Spitalfields Music Festival under Christian Curnyn.

Susanna Hurrell

Susanna Hurrell

Melisande

London-born soprano Susanna Hurrell is highly regarded as one of the most versatile singers of her generation. Since her critically acclaimed debut with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Lauretta Gianni Schicchi in 2016, her pure, clear tone and warm stage presence have garnered praise from audiences and critics throughout Europe and the UK.

Most recently Hurrell made her role debuts as Gretel Hansel and Gretel for the English National Opera / Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Rosalinde Die Fledermaus for Opera Holland Park and Anne Trulove The Rake’s Progress for Opera Glass Works at Wilton’s Music Hall. She also sang Micaela in Barrie Kosky’s new production of Carmen at the ROH, Mélisande Pelleas et Mélisande at the Norwegian National Opera and Aldimira in Cavalli’s Erismena for the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Equally at home with contemporary repertoire, she recently sang Isabel in the Russian premiere of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence at the Mariinsky Concert Hall, and in Philip Venables’ 4.48 Psychosis for the ROH, Prototype Festival in New York and Opéra national du Rhin, a role she originated in 2016. In 19/20 season, Hurrell will make her role debut as Cleopatra Giulio Cesare and reprise the title role of Ravi Shankar’s only opera Sukanya with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

On the concert platform, Hurrell has recently performed Mahler Symphony No. 4 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Les Illuminations with the English Chamber Orchestra, the world premiere of David Oppenheimer’s Deborah with the Southbank Sinfonia, Dido Dido and Aenas with The English Concert, Handel Messiah with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Mozart Festival Orchestra; and Bach Mass in B Minor with the BBC Singers.

Stephan Loges

Stephan Loges

Golaud

Michael Druiett

Michael Druiett

Arkel

Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson

Genevieve

British Mezzo Helen Johnson trained with Johanna Peters before taking her Post-Graduate Advanced Diploma at Trinity College of Music studying with Hazel Woods. In 2007 she was a Finalist in the Wagner Society Bayreuth Bursary Competition.

Helen has sung the roles of Azucena Il Trovatore & Annina La Traviata (Dorset Opera); Madame Larina Eugene Onegin (Stanley Hall); Bianca The Rape of Lucretia & Marcellina Marriage of Figaro (Opera East); Jezibaba Rusalka (Iford).
With English Touring Opera Helen has sung Lady Angela Patience, Genevieve Pelleas et Melisande, Kolusina Jenůfa, Filipyevna Eugene Onegin, 3rd Lady Magic Flute, Feklusha Katya Kabanova, Clotilde Norma; and covered the roles of Rodrigo Pia de’ Tolomei, Giovanna Seymour Anna Bolena, Kabanicha Katya Kabanova and Frugola Il Tabarro.

Helen sings regularly as an Extra Chorister with Opera North, English National Opera and WNO.

Lauren Zolezzi

Lauren Zolezzi

Yniold

Ms Lauren Zolezzi will play the role of Patience on 8 & 10 March (London), 17 March (Poole), 20 March (Sheffield), 24 March (Bromley), 31 March (Snape), 7 April (York), 10 April (Wolverhampton), 12 April (Leicester), 20 & 21 April (Cheltenham), 26 & 27 April (Cambridge), 6 May (Buxton), 8 May (Coventry) and 12 May (Canterbury).










Showing At

  1. Royal College of Music
    1st Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  2. Royal College of Music
    3rd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  3. Buxton Opera House
    16th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  4. Malvern Theatres
    22nd Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  5. Harrogate Theatre
    30th Oct 2015 - 7:30 pm
  6. West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge
    7th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  7. Theatre Royal Bath
    9th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  8. Snape Maltings Concert Hall
    13th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm
  9. Exeter Northcott Theatre
    20th Nov 2015 - 7:30 pm

Your Comments

  1. I just wanted to reiterate my thanks for your lovely Pelléas last week. Everyone I have spoken to loved it. I thought it was a brilliant show to export all round, and for opera, that's pretty necessary.

    Said Richard Langham Smith at 14:41pm on 8th Oct 2015

  2. This opera is well worth seeing. The story line the music, excellent. Also French is nearly good as Italian!
    Thank you for a great performance at Bath Theatre Royal. So refreshing to see different operas.
    Keep up the good work ETO.

    Said Mahesh at 09:31am on 10th Nov 2015

  3. Congratulations to all involved. An opera I had not seen before, and it was a revelation.
    The singing and playing was faultless.

    Said Judith at 12:19pm on 23rd Nov 2015

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