On the stage of the Auditorium of Radio France, and not in the pit of an opera, Claude Debussy’s orchestra “speaks” frontally to the listener. The latter does not know if he will succumb first to the murmurs of the flutes and oboes, to the caresses of the strings, to the muffled but haunting calls of the timpani or to the liquid arpeggios of the harps.
Under the direction of Susanna Mälkki, whose refined body language ignites and pours out in the feverish pages of Pelléas et Mélisande, the instrumentalists of the Orchester National de France are at their best. They lead us into the gardens surrounding the gloomy castle which holds the protagonists prisoners, at the edge of “the fountain of the blind”, in the oppressive caves and the undergrounds invaded by darkness “thick as a poisonous paste”… He speaks to us of love. and jealousy, secrets and fatality: two brothers fight over the heart of the same mysterious woman.
A young and quivering couple
Recorded during two concerts given on March 3 and 5, this Pelléas et Mélisande also benefits from a vocal cast which, if not perfect, has immense and touching qualities. Ben Bliss and Antoinette Dennefeld embody a young, natural and quivering couple. The French mezzo is perfectly at ease in the range of Mélisande: her full-bodied voice paints a rich and enigmatic portrait, while the strangely simple words of Maurice Maeterlinck set to music by Debussy ring with clarity and spontaneity.
If the diction of the American tenor Ben Bliss betrays a few tiny approximations, the flow of the sentence is there. And what an outpouring, what emotion in his ardent and fragile Pelléas on which “all the stars fall” during the admirable love duet that concludes Act IV!
Father and son
Jealous husband, “who kills without reason” in a tragic gesture “to make stones cry”, the Golaud of baritone Allen Boxer compensates for a slightly pale voice with a tormented composition whose distress increases from scene to scene.
Special mention to the young soloist from the Maîtrise de Radio France Joachim Semezies, in the role of Yniold, this child (born from Golaud’s first marriage) witnessing heartbreak that he should not see. The perfect intonation, the assurance and the frankness of the expression earned him warm applause during the salutes… So many arguments to share the lyrical evening of France Musique, this Saturday March 18 at 8 p.m., presented by Judith Chaine.