Pelléas and Mélisande


musical direction Daniel Kawka
staging Emmanuelle Bastet
scenography and costumes Tim Northam
lighting François Thouret
choir director Xavier Ribes
Armando Noguera, Pelléas
Stéphanie d’Oustrac, Mélisande
Jean-François Lapointe, Golaud
Wolfgang Schöne, Arkel
Cornelia Oncioiu, Geneviève
Chloé Briot, Yniold
Frédéric Caton, the physician

Choir of “Angers Nantes Opéra”
Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire


But the evening remains fascinating (…) The National Orchestra of Pays de Loire (…) impeccably plays a score which Daniel Kawka knows to perfection and is completely familiar with. That he is a specialist of contemporary music, is heard immediately. The highest openness of the performance, which is not only due to the limited size of the orchestra, I don’t believe I have ever heard such a performance as that of Pelleas, where the motives are exalted without ever being underlined, and where the emphasis of each part does not prevent a permanent rise. It is necessary to at least listen to the scene in the cave (II, 3) marvelous… Each detail is salient, and yet one still gets the impression of being continually thrown aback from the orchestral pit. And that supreme elegance in the grand duo of act IV – for example the oboe in “it seems as if rain had fallen on my heart”, which takes its time with liberty, beauty like never before.

The balances, the breaks, all a force of admiration.

One of the great performances of Pelleas, it is nigh on impossible for me to quote a conductor who has satisfied me more even when one has the discs of the greatest names and orchestras available, and very well mastered.


Another authentic artist in the orchestra pit: Daniel Kawka, who with the simplicity and the modesty of the greats, directs the Pays de Loire Orchestra in an excellent, consistent manner. The sea which crashes on the shores of the Republic of Allemonde, aren’t those of the Norman aqua-colours of Boudin, or the mauve seas of Monet’s Etretat. It is the savage ocean off the coast of Ouessant, its sombre undercurrents and its timid swell.

With a certain instinct for the progression of time, Daniel Kawka conserves fateful periods, and at each key moment, a strategic silence – “this agent of expression is perhaps the only way to emphasise emotions” as prescribed by Debussy. He deplores furthermore the “cocktail orchestra, a type of American drink composition, where eighteen products are mixed and all the particular flavours disappear”. In Nantes, the pure savour of the bassoon section, which projects the opera as a twilight in the undergrowth, where the strings of the contrabass are plucked, would have rejoiced.

Gilles Macassar, Télérama March,31 2014


The main actor of this sentimental adventure, the conductor Daniel Kawka places the score under a spotlight to reveal the minor details. It is also thanks to him that “Pelleas et Melisande” escapes the mists of approximation and indecision which provides startling expressionism.

Philippe Venturini, Les, March,27 2014


Like it once was for the Chateau of Barbe-Bleue according to Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, Daniel Kawka conducts his orchestra masterfully, perfectly measuring the time dramatically in order to halt the scene while Emmanuelle Bastet’s interludes equally transform the narrations. It stands out from the performance of Graslin, as you sit there in the knowledge that you have finally watched the masterpiece from Debussy in person, with nothing more left to be uncovered.

Jean-Charles Hoffelé, March,31 2014


The precision of timing of the Orchestra under the flexible, evocative, precise direction of Daniel Kawka creates an irresistible sensualism, which is a musical representation of the countless images and marine references found in the booklet. It is not often said that the conductor, who is very elegant, nuanced, and a great fan of Wagner and Malher, addresses the score with an economy, a Boulezienne measure, knowing also how to clarify the organic continuity of finely braided orchestral texture with exceptional clarity (interlocking themes, revelations; instrumental accentuations, filigrees: bassoons for Golaud, amorous oboes and flutes for Melisande and Pelleas…, without omitting sumptuous waves of strings to the sometimes Tristanesque colours: a treat). Gestures as well as visual effects heat up a piece which is often described as being absent, appearing distanced, cold and inaccessible. The scenographic realisation pierces the enigma crafted by Debussy prioritising the flesh and the drama, exalting beneficially the fabulous, flamboyant, chamber music-like, viscerally physical sounds of the orchestra. Daniel Kawka has a poetic hypersensitivity, always majestically suggestive, he returns to the quality of his mysterious register (so close musically and from this work of the Chateau de Barbe Bleue to Bartok, a piece which he also knows profoundly well, as he also conducted this for the Angers Nantes Opéra), and shows a return to where he started off, like an “endless loop”: his latest accords reconnect with the enigmatic and suspended climate of his work. Pelleas thus rejoins the Ring in the indication of a new beginning. The analysis and the vivacity with which the conductor approaches his music essentially reveals the success of his new production. He stands in front of such a musical vibration which sculpts each combination of sounds as Debussy intended, who in a full orchestra, is the genius of colour and transparency.

Philippe Alexandre Pham, Classiquenews March,27 2014


After having left us spellbound with “Le Château de Barbe-Bleue” two seasons ago, the excellent conductor Daniel Kawka confirmed this evening his undeniable affinity to music from the beginning of the 20th century. From the National Orchestra of Pays de la Loire he achieved the most beautiful qualities of nuances, real transparencies, very remarkable subtleties, all through a highly constructed vision, using a certain slowed down tempo repeatedly, but never solemnly.

Emmanuel Andrieu,, March,30 2014


At the lectern, Daniel Kawka’s gesture always cares for each detail with precision, shades of reminisce from the Parsifal, which give weight to his work of heavy clouds, in perfect accord with the spectacle in the form of a polished black diamond by Emmanuelle Bastet.

Emmanuel Dupuy, Diapason, March,27 2014
Read the article (French) Classique News.