Small-scale touring opera companies make a virtue out of necessity, presenting their productions on economical sets, resourcefully lit, and English Touring Opera's new Pelleas et Melisande, symbolic and elusive, is an ideal vehicle for such treatment.
It begins promisingly, Mark Howland atmospherically lighting a gloomy forest suggested by back-projection, Oliver Townsend's designs centring on a simple large earthenware dish, the well by which sits Melisande sits fearfully weeping.
But as we progress through the scenes the visual images do become monotonous, centring chiefly on an oblong kind of trunk which at various times serves as the entry to the castle vaults, an immovable stone, and the well where Melisande loses the ring Golaud has given her.
Had the tiny cast of singers moved more engagingly across these settings the concept might well have worked, but in fact was only in the final two acts that James Conway's production really took on some character, and this was partly through the growing emphasis on Michael Druiett's compassionate Arkel, as sorrowing as a wise Wotan.
The title roles were perhaps deliberately two-dimensional in their delivery, Jonathan McGovern almost Parsifal-like in his self-absorbed unawareness, Susanna Hurrell a Melisande needing more mysteriousness.
Stephan Loges projected a fine bass-baritone as Golaud, unsure whether his half-brother Pelleas is cuckolding him. Helen Johnson turned the normally retiring Genevieve into a genuine personality.
Uneven dramatically, then, but Debussy's mosaical score was paced sympathetically by conductor Jonathan Berman and his much-reduced but ravishingly sonorous orchestra (special plaudits to Christopher Stark's unobtrusively versatile harmonium).
There were a few blips: the surtitles at one stage announcing ETO's next season; the box-of-all-trades spilling some unidentifiable materials; a lengthy hiatus between Acts 4 and 5 as a problem in the orchestra was resolved.
And what was the point of the lighting-gauze rising noisily and clumsily, later to descend, during the confrontation scene between Golaud and Pelleas? Did it signify the intrusion of reality? It created more questions than it answered. But then so does this haunting opera.