Saturday, June 18, 2022

Portraits of an Opera - Pelleas et Melisande


Back in March I photographed a dress rehearsal of Opera Southwest's production of Pelleas et Melisande, the only opera completed by Claude Debussy.  The libretto, which Debussy also wrote, is adapted from Maurice Maeterlinck's symbolist play of the same title.

As so many operas are, Pelleas et Melisande is about a love triangle:  Melisande (Andrea Hill) . . .

is married to Golaud (Efrain Solis). . .


but she becomes increasingly attached to Golaud's half-brother, Pelleas (John Viscardi).  

 Needless to say, it doesn't end well.

The plot, I have to say, is so convoluted and in places, to my mind, obtuse that I won't try to recapitulate it here, but there's a good summary and other information about the opera in Wikipedia here if you're interested. 

Rather than give you an illustrated version of the story, I'm simply going to share some of the images -- mostly portraits of the singers -- from the production.  (The images above are from the publicity photo session, which I shot a week before the dress rehearsal.)

First I want to show you the stunning use of projected visuals for sets in the Opera Southwest production.

When photographing a dress rehearsal, I try to get a variety of shots from wide to close-up.  As you've seen with the images of projected scenery above, wide shots are good to give the viewer a sense of the scale and the overall spatial relationships of the singers on the stage.

But I prefer close-ups because I want the viewer to see more than what they would see if they were sitting in the audience anywhere further away than the first four or five rows.  I want the viewers to see the expressions and the gestures of the singers -- who, let's face it, are more than singers:  they are actors -- that convey meaning and emotion just as much as their singing does.

And because my images have no aural component, I watch for (and try to capture) moments with individuals -- and, more often, pairs of individuals -- that can make an image that will communicate even without a soundtrack.

For example . . .

Individuals -- lit by professionals -- also provide dramatic or intriguing portraits:

The individual singer who, from my visual perspective, stole the show was Alicia Hurtado, who sang the role of Yniold, Golaud's son by a previous marriage:

Bravo and brava to all the cast, conductor Anthony Barrese, and director David Bartholomew . . . with special thanks to the Lighting Director who provided the beautiful light to make these images.

Images from the complete opera are posted on my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography.  You can find them by clicking here.