Siobhan Stagg and Samuel Dundas.Credit:Jeff Busby
PELLEAS AND MELISANDE ★★★★½
Victorian Opera, Palais Theatre, October 11 and 13
It’s not often a soprano comes along with the ability to sing with both thrilling frisson and total tranquility. Inhabiting an extraordinarily intricate character, Siobhan Stagg’s performance as Melisande in Pelleas and Melisande was transcendent.
Victorian Opera marks the centenary of Claude Debussy’s death with his one and only opera, and among centuries of operatic masterpieces, Pelleas stands as utterly unique. The score is one of Wagnerian complexity and changed the musical landscape after its premiere in Paris in 1902.
The sublime Stagg has sung in some of the greatest opera houses in the world and was, thankfully, lured home to Melbourne for this role debut. Her voice is one of real beauty, completely even from top to bottom.
Melisande's a cappella introduction to Act III was a particular highlight, allowing the audience to clearly hear all Stagg's shimmering vocal colours. We can only hope it’s not too long before she returns home to perform again.
Meanwhile, the vocally powerful and physically striking baritone Samuel Dundas gave the performance of his career as Melisande’s paranoid and shattered husband Golaud. And Angus Wood’s Pelleas was the perfect sensitive and wide-eyed contrast to Dundas.
Conducted by Maestro Richard Mills, the students of the Australian National Academy of Music gave the professionals a run for their money, playing with subtlety and skill beyond their years.
Director Elizabeth Hill is to be commended for following Debussy’s stage directions as much as possible. It worked beautifully.
The only shame is that there are only two performances of this astonishing and supremely executed opera.
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