After listening to the first night and subsequent Saturday matinee broadcast, I was a bit apprehensive about tonight’s Pelléas. Paul Grove, normally excellent and solid, struggled quite a bit with the title role. Tonight, though, he was mostly back to himself, so he must have been ill. From the Family Circle we couldn’t hear if Isabel Leonard was still so reliant on the prompter (who was very clear on the radio a week ago), but even then she was giving a good Mélisande.
The real stars of the show, however, are Kyle Ketelsen’s Golaud and Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting. The music of the opera is always moving forward—the story cannot be stopped, an aspect mirrored in Jonathan Miller’s staging—yet rarely moving toward something. YNS handles the score superbly, with its glimmers of light and depths of darkness, building and dissipating, hardly seeming to actually arrive anywhere even at the story’s climaxes (none of which, of course, are endings). Not to put down Grove or Leonard (or the superb Arkel of Ferruccio Furlanetto), but Ketelsen and YNS were really a step (or more) above them all. I knew Ketelsen somewhat in graduate school, and always like to see people I know from school make it to the big stages, especially with such success. (This isn’t his debut, or even his first leading role, but I don’t think I’ve previously heard such excellence from him at the Met. Because I went and looked it up: he’s done a bunch of Escamillos, and handful of Leporellos v. Gerald Finley, a role in the last Billy Budd, and his debut was Angelotti in 2006!)