Pelléas et Mélisande, Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Pelleas_maskThis evening I am taking part in a performance of Debussy’s only complete opera, Pelléas et Mélisandeat the Royal Festival Hall (as part of the City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 series). The Philharmonia and Philharmonia Voices are being conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in this unique work which is being semi-staged in the concert hall. I am singing in Aidan Oliver’s chorus, tucked just behind the Royal Box as part of a chorale of distant sailors. Later I also have a walk-on role as a beggar, where I am required to walk onto the side of the stage wearing a mask (pictured), stand and then walk off again. Wish me luck…

In fact, the mask is a useful metaphor for my experience of this performance: the sailors’ chorus in Act 1 lasts for a single page of vocal score after which the chorus can only go home – as we’re not in the hall we can’t ‘stay’ to listen to the rest of the concert. The experience of the performance may seem rather arm’s length, veiled and mysterious, like the nature of the opera itself.