Pelléas and Mélisande

Pelléas and Mélisande

Lyrical drama by Claude Debussy
From CHF 17.-
Mon 18 Jan 19:30
Wed 20 Jan 19:30
Fri 22 Jan 19:30
Sun 24 Jan 15:00
Tue 26 Jan 19:30
Thu 28 Jan 19:30
Si j’étais Dieu, j’aurais pitié du cœur des hommes.

Maurice Maeterlinck

Lyrical drama by Claude Debussy

Composer’s libretto after the piece by Maurice Maeterlinck
First performed in 1902 in Paris
Last time at the Grand Théâtre de Genève 1999-2000
In coproduction with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen,
Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and Göteborgs Operan

Sung in French with French and English subtitles


Sponsored by:


Partner of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève


Musical Director Jonathan Nott
Stage Director  and choreographer Damien Jalet & Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Scenographer and concept Marina Abramović
Costumes designer Iris van Herpen
Lighting Designer Urs Schönebaum
Video Marco Brambilla
Dramaturgy Koen Bollen
Musical dramaturgy Piet De Volder
Choir director Alan Woodbridge

Pelléas Jacques Imbrailo
Mélisande Mari Eriksmoen
Golaud Leigh Melrose
Arkel Matthew Best
Geneviève Yvonne Naef
Yniold Marie Lys
Un médecin / Un berger Justin Hopkins

Dancers of the Eastman compagny
Grand Théâtre de Genève Chorus
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande


Prince Golaud is lost in a forest when he meets a mysterious damsel, weeping by a fountain, who will only tell him that she is fleeing people that hurt her and that her name is Mélisande. Golaud convinces her to marry him and come with him to Allemonde, where his father King Arkel welcomes them to his dark castle in the woods. Poverty and famine are plaguing Allemonde but nobody in the castle is willing to mention the obvious, they are all the victims of trauma and repressed desires. Only in Pelléas, Golaud’s half-brother, does Mélisande find a kindred spirit, as they both share the awareness that there is more to reality than meets the eye. A bitter triangle of relationships takes form between Mélisande and the two brothers.
Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1893 play Pelléas et Mélisande is one of the iconic works of the Symbolist movement, in which so many other Belgian artists like James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff and Georges Rodenbach were preeminent. Claude Debussy was one of the many musicians seduced by the play’s extemporal mystery and asked Maeterlinck to rework the text into a libretto for the only real opera he would ever compose: “I wanted the action to never end, I wanted it to be continuous, uninterrupted. I never consented that my music, for technical reasons, should rush or delay the movements of the characters’ feelings and passions.” The anti-rhetorical nature of Pelléas et Mélisande, always steering clear of any kind of emphasis, made it the flagship of the anti-Wagnerian movement in its time, even if Debussy’s opera is audibly a modernist answer to Tristan and Parsifal.
The staging of this organic and lyric dreampiece brings together two Belgian masters of movement and dance, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet, and the legendary Serbian visual and performance artist Marina Abramović. They make their matter of the uninterrupted cycle of life and its inherent links to the cosmos. Like Debussy in his music, the eschew any kind of illustrative gesture, but here and there cast rays of cosmic light on the invisible energies and the hidden emotions of the characters. Eight dansers express on stage the interiority of the singers’ feelings and forward thinking haute couture designer Iris van Herpen weaves them in unseen webs. It will be up to Jonathan Nott, at the head of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, to bring forth the mysterious musical quivering that makes Debussy’s opera so fascinating.

Pelléas and Mélisande at La Plage

Apéropéra 14.1.2021
Conference 15.1.2021
Public Workshops  16.1.2021
En coulisse 20.1.2021
Intropéra 45 minutes before each performance


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