25th Mar - 16th Apr 2023

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at LA Opera

“an exquisite musical performance” — Parterre


“The devotion, affection and appreciation James Conlon reflects towards Pelléas et Mélisande is fitting and heartfelt. While the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra is yet another “witness to action”, a musical narration which “fills in the blanks”, it completes the opera as a whole and contributes supreme symbolist textures. M. Conlon delivers beautiful nuances and delicate touches to such an unusual yet brilliantly evocative score.” — ConcertoNet

“the orchestra was … swelling and delicate under Music Director James Conlon’s deft baton.  San Francisco Classical Voice

“It was clear from the opening notes that the LA Opera Orchestra was going to be the star of this production… Throughout the evening, Conlon highlighted all kinds of things, like the magical effects in the strings in an Act II interlude, striking streaks of high emotion during Arkel’s monologue in Act IV, and the basses sizzling ominously in the climactic scene later on while keeping everything in a unified flow. The orchestra sounded fabulously rich… delivering plenty of detail at a comfortable volume that hardly ever overwhelmed the singers.” Classical Voice North America

“with Conlon at the helm .. we’re getting the composer’s work more so than someone’s “interpretation” of such and this proved itself from the first… What followed was an exquisite musical performance with a deliciously muted transparency. In the intervening years the LA Opera Orchestra has certainly gained the expertise to succeed in such a challenging score. Conlon kept his players on a slow simmer for most of the evening until the interlude after Act IV scene 2; the episode of Golaud’s abuse of Mélisande in front of Arkel. Here he finally, and justifiably, unleashed the full force of Debussy’s writing on the audience. Amplifying the devastation of the previous events to even more powerful effect. The following two scenes simply gained in emotional force as Conlon mirrored and matched the impassioned declaration of love that followed between Pelléas and Mélisande… Conlon’s love for the score certainly came through over and over and the LA Opera Orchestra played with a tender translucence that was well within the French tradition. He also managed to keep the performance grounded rather than having it becoming too ethereal which is the trap with this score.​”​ — Parterre 

“Of course it’s the gestalt, not just this staging, that delivers the impact. It’s the enrapturing music — led by Conlon at his very most inspired, at his best, and compellingly played with orchestral plushness, filigree and layered dynamism.” LA Tempo

“The orchestral ensemble, conducted by maestro, James Conlon, is also noteworthy for offering beautiful atmospheric moments and allowing the instrumental interludes to shine on their own.” Indulge Magazine

“James Conlon’s musical direction was at once lucid and poetic, aiming for Mozartian purity rather than Wagnerian richness.” Classical Voice

… the Pelléas et Mélisande heard at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on April 2 was ravishing, with Conlon eschewing meandering, mythical pacing and modernist effects to get straight to the emotion in the score. His interpretation moved fast and revealed itself with clarity.” — Opera

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