Soprano Elise Ross and her husband, conductor Simon Rattle, have withdrawn from L.A. Music Center Opera's new production of Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," due in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in February.
Replacing Rattle on the podium will be Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in his local operatic debut. The role of Melisande will be performed by mezzo-soprano Monica Groop, also a Finnish musician.
The opera company's announcement said that Ross and Rattle are giving up "all future joint operatic projects for family reasons."
Reached in London, their manager, Martin Campbell-White, clarified: "Elise and Simon are acutely embarrassed at the late timing of this withdrawal, but they have found that they cannot both be gone from home at the same time for reasons of family continuity and equilibrium." The Rattles have two sons, ages 11 and 5.
According to Campbell-White, the couple has also canceled their participation in "Pelleas" in Amsterdam in 1996 and Berg's "Wozzeck" at Covent Garden, next year. The manager said Ross and Rattle have "made a pact (with each other) not to be away from the children for more than two weeks at a time, since that would be unfair to the parent left at home."
The entire Los Angeles visit, Campbell-White said, would have involved "six or seven weeks, total," since Rattle will be rehearsing and conducting the L.A. Philharmonic here, Jan. 2-15.
Campbell-White said the couple's individual engagements will not be affected. Both Ross and Rattle have separate operatic assignments this summer; she will perform in Florence and he will conduct at the Glyndebourne Festival.
In the meantime, the L.A. Philharmonic has announced that in order to accommodate Salonen's rescheduling of his previous February commitment with the Swedish Radio Orchestra at the time of the "Pelleas" performances, he will be replaced at Philharmonic concerts in the first week of April by British conductor Andrew Davis, when Salonen goes belatedly to Sweden.