PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE | London, Playground Theatre

Opera On The Move’s inaugural production is a new staging of Debussy’s 3-hour 1902 opera, in the 90-minute 1992 Peter Brook version for two pianos. Staged in the warehouse-like, radiator-clad room of the Playground Theatre in Latimer Road, this is fringe opera, but not as we know it. Fast-paced staging (Gareth Mattey) against gigantic video projections (Lucia Sanchez Roldan) makes for a fully engrossing experience.

All six of the cast are unusually fantastic. Jealous prince Golaud (Benjamin Schilperoort) seems a bit of a stand-out, fighting to control his flighty, unpredictable bride, Mélisande (Emilie Cavallo). Against this young pairing, insecure would-be lover Pelléas (Ben Thapa) brings a maturer voice, singing an amazing fortissimo duet with Mélisande at the finale.

Sensitive and subtle direction (Gareth Mattey) brings out layered and truthful performances from everyone. Debussy’s oceanic score with meandering melodies poses no problem: exciting choreography sees lovers diving under pianos and chasing through forests. Sung in French (with English surtitles), every line is crystal clear.

Abandoning Debussy’s masterful orchestration might seem a bad choice. But actually, the percussiveness of the two pianos invigorates the score, played with aplomb by musical director Juliette Sabbah, and Alastair Chilvers. Yes, this is probably not the opera as Debussy originally intended; it’s opera on the move.

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