Pelléas et Mélisande, Rattle/Sellars. In Acts 1 and 2 Rattle seemed on edge, driving the LSO so they couldn’t finish phrases properly. That had been a problem too in his Sibelius cycle with the Berliners. I’d thought it was just a symptom of Rattle’s dysfunctional relationship with that orchestra, but it seems the problem is more ingrained. It meant that the music’s impact was muted, as if out of focus; Bernard Williams talks about the accompaniment “tuned… to the smallest movements of the mind”, and that subtlety can’t properly express itself if the score is being gabbled. But from Act 3 onwards he seemed less strained, and his conducting had the delicacy, lyricism and violence the piece needs. The orchestra played beautifully.
Gerhaher (Pelléas) & Finley (Golaud) were really fine, and the Pelléas/Golaud relationship was the most successful aspect of the staging, particularly in showing how similar they are; self-absorbed, unself-aware.
Kožená was miscast (her voice is too heavy) and her characterisation misconceived. Perhaps Mélisande is not an innocent, but turning her folk song at the start of Act 3 (Mes longs cheveux) into an erotic performance makes her a sexual being of a kind which she definitely isn’t. This was consistent with the worst aspect of the staging, which was to make the relationship between Pelléas and Mélisande physically demonstrative from the outset. The child Yniold tells Golaud he has seen them kiss, but we don’t witness whatever Yniold has, and so don’t know what kind of kiss it was. According to the libretto they kiss onstage just once, in Act 4, immediately before Golaud kills Pelléas; this is the only moment where the audience should see their love unambiguously expressed, and it’s that sense of ambiguity finally and uniquely resolved which gives (should give) such intensity to this climactic moment. If (as Sellars had it) Pelléas and Mélisande are already entwined in Act 3 then the moment is robbed of its full meaning.