The season, day by dayback to calendar
Drame lyrique in five acts
Libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck (1893)
First performed April 30th 1902, Opéra Comique, Salle Favart, Paris
Sung in French with German surtitles.
ca. 3hrs 30 mins, including one interval
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance
»Pelléas et Mélisande is an experiment in a lack of orientation in people unable to find their bearings. One pushes another to make a statement: do you love me? The question is answered in the affirmative. But what does an affirmative answer mean, does it satisfy internal emptiness? For most of the time the figures in this world seem so trapped inside their own tangled inner selves that they are no longer in a position to register changes in others.« (Claus Guth). Debussy's five act drame lyrique, based on a text by the symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck, takes place in a time of legend in Allemonde, a gloomy castle and home to old King Arkel and his family. Claus Guth's German Theater »Faust« prize winning production tells the disastrous love story as a mysterious but realistic family drama, bathed in a magical light by Debussy's oscillating colours and orchestral language.
Golaud meets a young woman. It is obvious that something terrible has happened to her. Mélisande allows him to calm her. Allemonde: Geneviève reads Arkel a letter from Golaud to his half-brother Pelléas, telling him of his marriage to Mélisande, about whom he knows almost nothing. If Arkel approves, a lighted candle should be left by the window, otherwise he never return. Pelléas lights the candle. Mélisande finds the house too dark. Pelléas says that there will be a storm tonight. He and Mélisande watch a ship, the one that brought her, leaving the harbour. ACT 2 Mélisande plays with her wedding ring. It falls into the water at exactly twelve o’clock - the same moment Golaud fell from his horse when it bolted. She tells Golaud that she is unhappy and would like to go away with him because she feels she will not live much longer at Allemonde. Seeing that her ring is missing, he sends her off to find it, telling her that Pelléas can help when she says she is frightened to go alone. Mélisande and Pelléas pretend to look for the ring. ACT 3 Pelléas tells Mélisande that he going to visit a friend. Golaud surprises them, tells them it is late and to stop behaving like children. Golaud leads Pelléas through the darkest regions of the estate, asking if he can smell the scent of death. Golaud tells him to keep away from Mélisande; she is with child. Golaud makes his son Yniold watch Pelléas & Mélisande and tell him what they are doing. ACT 4 Pelléas tells Mélisande about his father’s recovery. It has been decided that he should go on a journey. They arrange to meet at night. Arkel hopes that Mélisande will be happier in the future. Golaud joins them. More convinced than ever that she is being unfaithful, he storms off. Yniold has lost his ball. He tries desperately to retrieve it. Pelléas tells Mélisande that he will never see her again because he loves her. She admits that she loved him at first sight. He begs her to go with him into the light but she says that she feels closer to him in the dark. Golaud kills Pelléas. ACT 5 A shroud of death has hung over Mélisande since she gave birth. The doctor assures Golaud that she will recover. She awakes. Golaud tries to find out what happened between her and Pelléas. Arkel tries to draw Mélisande’s attention to her baby, but she has lost the will to live, and dies.