Pelléas: No other role quite like it

Jonathan McGovern on preparing the role of Pelléas.  

The wonderful thing about Pelléas is there’s no other role quite like it. It’s totally unique. The range, the colours, and the technique it asks for are challenging but you’re rewarded with the most incredible music from Debussy and a character that you can delve deeper and deeper inside on every reading.  The text itself, with all it’s symbolism and allegory, gives you a huge palette of feelings and ideas to draw upon.  I actually started working on the role in my final years of music college and still I’m finding new things every day.

I was lucky enough to sing the role for the first time last season with English Touring Opera. Coming back to a part you’ve done before is a nice feeling; you know all the twists and turns but it enables you to look further into the piece too. Our conductor Jac van Steen and I have already met on a couple of occasions to work together on the role and share ideas.  We both love the piece and know how much there is to be unlocked inside it; the words and music come together in a way unlike any other opera. To have Michael Boyd help us explore this world is such a privilege. His Eugene Onegin for Garsington last year was beautiful; both pieces deal with love, loss and betrayal and the operas impart these themes through the most profoundly touching music. I can’t wait to see what insights he has to offer. In fact we’re all meeting next week for a music rehearsal, so I don’t have to wait that long!

This will be my debut at Garsington. The opera house and its surroundings are truly beautiful. Debussy’s score has so many moments that breathe the freshness of the great outdoors and nature, and there’s plenty of that on the Wormsley Estate! The casts and colleagues across all the productions are fantastic and I can’t wait to share the summer season with them.