Notes and Editorial Reviews
One might have thought that the exceptional nature of this opera, lull of vague thoughts and understated music, would prove elusive on disc, but Boulez's much praised 1970 recording, made after his performances of it at Covent Garden, reappears amid a positive welter of recommendable versions of the work, making choice increasingly difficult. His long introductory essay that accompanied the original LP issue, setting out his ideas on the opera and its casting, has unfortunately now been dropped; but in particular he made a point of the importance of the orchestra — "to reduce the score to an accompanied recitative is conspicuously to betray it" — and under his direction the orchestral sound is truly splendid, reflecting his
reaction against the "bloodlessness" with which the drama is often presented.
The French of his completely non-French cast (contrasting with those of Dutoit and Jordan Decca, 3/91 and Erato, 12/91 respectively) is let down only by George Shirley—I am surprised that Boulez did not insist on something being done about his poor vowels—and though, as a tenor, he conveys Pelléas's youthfulness, his tone is rather unyielding for much of the time. The other slightly disappointing piece of casting is David Ward, who makes old Arkel sound merely glum (though that seems to have been the reading Boulez wanted). But the strength of this performance lies with the intelligent and vocally assured Sdderström and with Mcintyre's superb character study of Golaud, against his will eaten up with a jealousy that drives him to near-madness; and exceptionally good is the boy Anthony Britten as little Yniold. The recording, always very satisfying, is now "enhanced using 20-bit technology", if you know what that means: at any rate, it sounds fine to me.
-- L.S., Gramophone [4/1992]
Reviewing earlier release of this recording.
Works on This Recording
Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy
George Shirley (Tenor),
Donald McIntyre (Bass Baritone),
David Ward (Bass),
Yvonne Minton (Mezzo Soprano),
Anthony Britten (Treble),
Elisabeth Söderström (Soprano)
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1893-1902; France
Date of Recording: 1970
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