05 July 2018

Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande

When the Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper Unter den Linden) reopened after a long renovation, I was invited by a friend to watch an opera. As I haven't been to this venue before, I was looking forward to a production. I looked at the offerings, and decided on Pelléas et Mélisande, as it seemed to be the most interesting one. I must say that it was an intense performance, and something that made me think.

See, I am familiar with Debussy's music, given my history of playing his piano works. But I never really knew his works beyond the piano. Hence this opera is quite new for me. I found it very captivating, and slightly hard to reconcile given what I know about his music. But then again, the whole tone scales appear, the unconventional tonalities, and plenty of other signs that point to the fact that this is indeed Debussy's work.

I take slight issue with the abstract production. The stage was very barren, and only had some geographical material. A round mound stood for a fountain, a mountain, and a cave. There was a small trench, and a rotating backstage, equipped with various abstract items, like a long staircase that goes all the way to the ceiling. This opera is the second opera I have seen with an abstract production (the first one was Richard Strauss's Elektra in the Deutsche Oper), and it makes it slightly harder to get into the rhythm of things. It taxes your imagination a lot, but then again it makes you focus more on the internal conflict that happens between the characters. Come to think of it, both Pelléas et Mélisande and Elektra are psychological thrillers, with very few characters, and the conflict happens between the minds of these characters. So many there is a sense why the production was staged that way.

This opera has a heavy focus on the dialogue between Golaud, his stepbrother Pelléas, and the mysterious woman they both fall in love with, Mélisande. One seems a slow degeneration of emotions in the part of Golaud, as he descends further and further into evil, when he realises that Mélisande doesn't love him back. It is a love triangle, set in a fairytale-like kingdom, but given the abstract production, this fairytale aspect is lost and instead the audience is focused at the conflict that happens instead.

It's a fairly long opera, with 5 acts. Don't bring children. As it was the Berlin State Opera, there were some people there who seemed to be there more for parading their evening gowns, but I was there for the music. Oh, surprisingly enough, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel also showed up, together with her husband. Quite a few people expressed their desire for a selfie.

No comments:

Post a Comment