Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Self-revelation is the Dynamic of the Solo Operatic Aria: Pelléas et Melisande Conducted by James Conlon

LA Opera continues its 2022/23 season with Claude Debussy's enigmatic masterpiece Pelléas et Mélisande, conducted by Music Director James Conlon.

The opera tells the story of a prince lost in the forest, encountering an ethereal beauty with a mysterious past. After he brings her home to his family as his bride, she begins to grow increasingly close to his handsome younger brother. Debussy's sensual, exquisitely nuanced score casts a hypnotic spell, capturing an enigmatic dream world where forbidden love blossoms.

Last presented by LA Opera in 1995, Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's president and CEO calls it "one of the most rapturously beautiful operas in the entire repertory ... one of my, and James Conlon's, favorite operas" that they've been planning to offer for several years now.

Although Debussy received international recognition for its genius immediately after the premiere of Pelléas, the opera did not take immediate root in opera houses because they were dominated by the Italian or German traditions. By the composer's choice, there were none of the conventional props that audience had long come to expect and seek from opera: vocal acrobatics, bombastic overtures, choruses, and even no ballet, a virtual requirement in France. Rather, the demands on the audience are more similar to those on a concert-going audience.

Most surprisingly, there are even no arias that could be excerpted and popularized. As Conlon explains, "Self-revelation is the dynamic of the solo operatic aria, and the characters in Pelléas, especially Melisande, do everything but reveal themselves."

The typical operatic diva or divo has little interest in a work that does not show off the voice, and specially one in which there is no interruption for applause. Most notably, even the quiet, sad and intimate final act discourages any noisy or prolonged applause, making the opera hardly attractive for serious, success-seeking singers and conductors. But this is exactly what makes the opera different - requiring instead sustained concentration on detail - for greater clarity, tonal color, and expression. Says Conlon, "Pelléas belongs to a group of works that should be constantly performed, studied and revisited." Like Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Boris Godunov and Wozzeck, Pelléas is unique and does not belong to any tradition or genre".

James Conlon conducts a production created by director David McVicar for Scottish Opera in 2017 Production new to Los Angeles. The cast is led by baritone Will Liverman and soprano Sydney Mancasola as the titular lovers, both of them making their company debuts.

With an estimated running time of three hours and five minutes which includes one intermission, the opera will be performed in French with English supertitles. Six performances March 25 through April 16 will take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Although masks are encouraged, they are no longer required indoors at the theater.

For tickets and more information is available at


Reader Comments(0)