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30 January 2022 (Sun), 19:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theatre - Opera and Concert Hall - Stars of the Stars  Opera Claude Debussy "Pelleas et Melisande" opera in five acts

Running time: 3 hours 15 minutes (till 22:15)

The performance has 1 intermission

Schedule for Claude Debussy "Pelleas et Melisande" opera in five acts 2022

Mezzo soprano: Zlata Bulycheva
Bass: Vladimir Felyauer
Bass-baritone: Andrei Serov
Conductor: Christian Knapp
Soprano: Aigul Khismatullina
Soprano: Anna Denisova
Baritone: Gamid Abdulov
Baritone: Yegor Chubakov

Composer: Claude Debussy
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Lighting Designer: Alexander Sivaev
Stage Director: Anna Matison

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Opera in 5 act

Performed in French with synchronised Russian and English supertitles

World premiere: 30 April 1902, Opera Comique, Paris
Premiere in Russia: 19 October 1915 Musical Drama Theatre, Petrograd
Premiere of this production: 24 October 2019, Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Music by Claude Debussy
Libretto by the composer after the play by Maurice Maeterlinck

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director and Costume Designer: Anna Matison
Production Designers: Marsel Kalmagambetov, Anna Matison
Lighting Designer: Alexander Sivayev
Choreographer: Sergei Zemlyansky
Make-Up Designer: Maria Morzunova
Computer graphic: Alexander Kravchenko
French Language Coaches: Ksenia Klimenko
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova


On 17 May 1893 the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens saw its one and only performance of Maurice Maeterlinck’s recently completed play Pelléas et Mélisande. The production had been organised by a devotee of the dramatist, the acclaimed actor Aurélien Lugné-Poë, who performed the role of Prince Golaud. In line with the author’s wishes, the costumes were produced in the spirit of Memling, the sets were reminiscent of the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites and between the auditorium and the stage there was a trembling transparent tulle curtain. This version of the legend of Tristan and Isolde flowed in a dream-like manner. Among invited guests in the audience were the poets Mallarmé and Henri de Régnier, the painters Whistler and Lerolle and the thirty-year-old Claude Debussy. For a long time he had been looking for a plot for a possible opera.

While still a student at the conservatoire, when faced with his composition teacher Ernest Guiraud’s question about who could be his librettist Debussy replied “Someone who doesn’t say every single thing. I would like to add my dream to his – that would be the ideal. Neither a specific country nor time. (…) Today in opera there is too much singing. The musical clothing is far too heavy. You should only sing when there is a need to. Semitones. Grisaille. No working it for the sake of working it. A lengthy development should not be combined with the lexis. I dream of short verse and mobile scenes. I don’t care about the three unities! I need scenes that are varied in terms of place and style, where the characters don’t orate about their own existences, fates and so on.” These answers so prophetically describe Pelléas that when the text of this cited conversation was published many years later it gave the lie to the doubt: had it all been made up?

Pelléas is a drama where little is spoken and much is left unsaid, but this silence is more eloquent than words, it as if asks to be filled with the music of premonitions, doubts, suspicions and insights. Debussy was not even called on to create the libretto. He set Maeterlinck’s play, with the exception of three scenes, to music word for word. The composer began to create the music from the culmination  – with the declarations of the protagonists before they are parted. With the scene, in which after an outpouring of emotions and Pelléas’ declaration “I love you”, Mélisande, in utter silence, almost imperceptibly replies on one note “I love you too.”

While looking for appropriate musical language, the composer complained to his friends that “All of this is too much like the duet by M. So–and–So, or nobody in particular, and worst of all the ghost of old Klingsor.” It was not by chance that he named a Wagnerian character. Debussy thought Wagnerian drama to be poisonous and, finding nothing comparable in contemporary French or Italian opera, his attention was focussed only on Bayreuth. Pelléas is his response to Wagner in the framework of a similar subject. Where Wagner forces his characters to declare themselves over half an hour and repeat the same thing many times, with Debussy there are mere modest statements, things left unsaid and semi-hints. Instead of the dense sound of Wagner’s orchestra Debussy gave his preference to a rarefied and pointillist palette with frequent divisi of the strings, gossamer-like solos and blends. To isolate the timbres he even considered whether or not he should position the orchestral sections so that the cellos were next to the bassoons or “split up the brass section” so that it sounded like an ensemble of soloists. He preferred static sequences to intense harmonic development, as if stopping musical time: it was not by chance that Maeterlinck’s plays were called “dramas of waiting”. Debussy avoided loudness and pathos – his music rarely extends beyond the confines of piano. The heroes’ leitmotifs appear only in the orchestra, and not in the vocal roles. Debussy the critic jokingly wrote that Wagner’s heroes, having sung their leitmotifs, were like someone who, leaving a calling card, excitedly recites its content.

At the opera’s premiere the lack of songs and dances in the score as well as of choruses and ensembles, those very semitones, the chemistry of micro-phrases and the extremely subtle sound patterns that had troubled Debussy left the audience perplexed. And when Mélisande replied to Golaud’s question in Act II as to why she is crying she responded “I am miserable here” the auditorium gloomily joked “So are we.” In Pelléas the dramatic energy mounts gradually. The first half of the opera takes place in an emotional range that is between “quiet” and “very quiet”. It is only towards Acts III and IV that tenderness, fear, despair and cruelty come to the fore – such as the jealousy scene in which Golaud makes his young son look out of the window at his wife and the prince’s brother. The censor insisted this scene be dropped in order not to shock the family audiences of the Opéra Comique, though in the end only fourteen bars were cut. Both Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov found Pelléas monotonic. But for the French, Debussy’s opera became an object of national pride and, looking back, we can see that people’s estimation of it has only increased. Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen trace the starting point of 20th century music to 30 April 1902 and the premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande.
Anna Petrova

Age category 16+

Act I 
A dark forest in a distant land. A young woman flees her past. Prince Golaud, hunting a trail of blood, discovers the  runaway princess, Melisande, and is taken by her beauty and her royal blood. Golaud takes Melisande out of the  forest.
Back home, on the  depleted island of Allemonde, Genevieve pleads with King Arkel to allow her son, Prince Golaud, to return home with his new wife, Melisande. Arkel laments Golaud’s failure to wed anothe r whose union would have ended the  war that cripples his nation. But in his old age and encroaching blindness, Arkel leaves the  decision to destiny and grants permission for Golaud to return home. Pelleas, the  bastard child of Genevieve, enters and begs King Arkel to let him leave the  island to visit a dying friend. Arkel refuses, reminding Pelleas that his presence is needed at home to prepare for his brothe r’s return and to care for his own dying fathe r upstairs. The lamps are lit for Golaud’s return.
On a cliff atop the  island, Genevieve shows Melisande the  unending darkened forests of Allemonde which she has endured for forty years and the  glistening sea far beyond. Pelleas joins the m. Pelleas and Melisande stare out in excitement as the  boat which brought Melisande ushers away some lucky few. Genevieve asks Pelleas to escort Melisande home. Pelleas informs Melisande that he is leaving tomorrow.

Act II 
Deep in the  forest, Pelleas leads Melisande to an old well which hithe rto cured the  blind – until King Arkel himself began to go blind. Melisande basks in the  too little seen sunlight. Melisande plays a dangerous game of catch with her wedding ring over the  bottomless well and drops the  ring into the  well at the  ominous stroke of noon. Pelleas urges Melisande to tell Golaud the  truth.
Golaud storms about his bedroom. While hunting, precisely at the  stroke of noon, he was tossed from his horse. Melisande asks Golaud to take her away from the  island; she senses something awful that she cannot explain. Golaud, taking her hands to comfort her, notices the  wedding ring is missing. Melisande lies and says that she lost it in a cave by the  sea. Golaud explodes and forces Melisande to go hunting for it immediately – with Pelleas.
At the  mouth of the  cave, Pelleas and Melisande stand in terror. Pelleas forces Melisande to enter so she can lie truthfully to Golaud about the  place where she “lost” the  ring. The moon emerges and reveals three beggars sleeping in the  cave. Melisande is terrified and runs home.

Act III 
Melisande, now locked in her tower, contemplates her own escape. Pelleas interrupts and again tells Melisande that he is leaving tomorrow. Melisande opens herself to Pelleas as best she can; Pelleas binds himself in Melisande’s metaphoric love. Golaud discovers the  two and chides the m both for playing like children.
Golaud takes Pelleas on a journey to smell the  stench of death up-close.
Released from Golaud’s threatening grip, Pelleas basks in the  sunlight. Golaud tells Pelleas that Melisande is now pregnant and that he must the refore keep a subtle distance – so as not to upset her. Pelleas defies his half-brothe r’s wishes and goes to Melisande in her tower.
Beneath her window, Golaud questions his son, Yniold, about Pelleas and Melisande’s behaviour. But Yniold does not tell his fathe r what he wants to hear. A light in the  tower turns on and Golaud lifts Yniold high in the  air to spy on Pelleas and Melisande. Yniold sees Pelleas and Melisande sitting, staring into the  light.

Act IV
King Arkel throws a party to celebrate the  recovery of Pelleas’ sick fathe r and the  coming birth of Golaud and Melisande’s baby. Hope is returning to Allemonde. During the  party, Pelleas finds Melisande in anothe r room and plans a last secret meeting at the  well before his hopeful departure tomorrow.
Arkel enters and showers Melisande with gifts of love for the  arrival of her baby. Golaud enters, blood on his forehead, and confirms Pelleas’ departure the  next day. Melisande tries to care for Golaud but he explodes and accuses Melisande of infidelity, throwing her to the  ground and dragging her about. Arkel rises to control Golaud and to protect Melisande. Arkel tries to comfort Melisande. Yniold tries to free his toy which is wedged between two rocks. He tries to enlist Melisande’s help; but she is distracted by her own grief and guilt. She plays a game with Yniold who sees a flock of sheep being led to the  slaughter. Yniold runs off in terror.
Pelleas prepares for his last meeting at the  well with Melisande. Melisande arrives, scared to enter the  darkness with Pelleas. But once she does, the y declare the ir love for one anothe r. The gates of the  palace close early. Golaud appears. The lovers kiss. Golaud murders his half-brothe r, Pelleas. Melisande flees for her life.

Act V
The family gathe rs in Melisande’s room as she fights for her life. She awakes with no recollection of the  murder or of her premature baby’s birth. Golaud asks to be alone with Melisande and instantly obsesses over the  true nature of her love for Pelleas. Arkel re-enters to protect Melisande.
Melisande is introduced to her baby girl, says “I pity her” and quietly dies. Arkel leads the  family out of the  room. Now it is her daughter’s turn.
Daniel Kramer

Schedule for Claude Debussy "Pelleas et Melisande" opera in five acts 2022

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