Pelléas and Mélisande

The Scottish Opera returns to the Festival theatre this Spring with a production of Pelléas and Mélisande. Written by Claude Debussy it is his only fully completed opera and is considered a landmark for twentieth-century classical music.


A love triangle forms the basis of the plot following Mélisande, Price Golaud and Pelléas. Golaud finds Mélisande in the woods crying all alone and takes her home to his grandfather’s castle as his wife. Here she grows unhappy finding solace in Golaud’s half-brother, Pelléas. Their friendship grows and romantic feelings start to arise. Golaud becomes aware and jealousy takes root – he forces his son Yniold to spy on the couple occasionally taking his anger and frustration out on his own son in one poignant and discomforting scene. Pelléas becomes aware of the situation and decides to leave but meets Mélisande one last time and they finally confess their love for one another. Golaud overhears them and in a jealous rage, rushes out and kills Pelléas. Mélisande dies whilst giving birth to a daughter, whether through heartbreak or the labour one doesn’t know.

The set was undoubtedly one of the most impressive features of the production with an extremely versatile and elaborate design that was put to incredible use. However, the extravagance of the set led to extremely jarring scene changes where the stage was blacked out for extended amounts of time which was frankly boring for the audience to sit through. It became very tiresome when it became evident it was going to happen at every set change. The lighting and projection was beautiful bringing a variety of locations to life – from a dovecote complete with flying doves to a moonlit cave. Overall the set and tech magically combined to bring the story to life and was completely in sync with music!

The performers were talented but there were occasions when it was extremely difficult to hear the singers which was a shame. However, I must concede French isn’t the most beautiful language to listen to in opera! The lyrics weren’t always sweet to the ear and struggling to hear them did not add to the enjoyment of the piece.

It must be concluded that this is a piece of artistic beauty but it isn’t ever going to be my favourite opera as the story lacked pace in the plot so was a little dull. However, the execution of the production by the Scottish Opera was flawless as ever!

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