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Luminous playing from the Orchestra of English National Opera under Mark Elder in this November 1981 performance, derived from a BBC broadcast. So much of the mystery and meaning of this endlessly fascinating work are expressed via Debussy’s magical use of orchestral colouring – and Elder and his players mine it for significance. But the voices come over well here, too, and their presentation of Hugh Macdonald’s sensitive translation demonstrates that Pelléas can indeed work in English. The cast is consistently strong. Neil Howlett’s Golaud exemplifies the character’s moral ambiguity and driven quality; Eilene Hannan’s Mélisande has distinctive enigmatic appeal. Sarah Walker makes a great deal of Geneviève’s letter-reading. John Tomlinson exudes the wisdom of age as Arkel. Some will prefer a tenor Pelléas to Robert Dean’s baritone, for greater contrast with Golaud, but his lightness and suavity encompass its demands nicely. The overall result deserves a high position among recordings of the opera in any language.

George Hall Read the full review on Agora Classica

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