Claude Debussy: “Pelléas et Mélisande”


Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

Oct 26, 7:00 pm19:00 Uhr


Pel­léas Bern­hard Richter
Mélisande Patri­cia Peti­bon
Golaud Tas­sis Chris­toy­an­nis
Arkël Nico­las Testé
Geneviève Yvonne Naef
A doc­tor Peter Har­vey
Lit­tle Yniold Oliv­er Michael


Production Team

Cos­tume design­er Anna Bia­giot­ti
Set design Andrea Toc­chio
Light­ing design­er Tamás Bányai
Stage Man­ag­er Wendy Grif­fin-Reid
Assis­tant Direc­tor Hei­de Stock
Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor Róbert Zen­tai
Direc­tors Iván Fis­ch­er & Mar­co Gan­di­ni


Iván Fischer

The event is about 3.0 hours long.


Fur­ther dates:
Oct. 27, 2023, 7 p.m.
Oct. 29, 2023, 7 p.m.

About the opera

The Vicen­za Opera Fes­ti­val will present at its sixth edi­tion Debussy’s ground­break­ing music dra­ma that hov­ers on the bor­der between dream and real­i­ty. The cast of Pel­léas and Mélisande, direct­ed by Iván Fis­ch­er, is once again made up of inter­na­tion­al stars.

After the BFO’s pro­duc­tion of The Mag­ic Flute, Swiss tenor Bernard Richter is back to sing the most impor­tant role in his reper­toire. The oth­er title role is played by world-famous sopra­no Patri­cia Peti­bon, described by The Guardian as an eccen­tric in the best sense of the word. The char­ac­ter of Golaud is played by Tas­sis Chris­toy­an­nis, who is well known to the Hun­gar­i­an audi­ence. In Debussy’s opera, more empha­sis is placed on sym­bols than on plot, and nat­ur­al speech is more impor­tant than melody. The result: deeply human music, surg­ing with indi­vid­ual inter­pre­ta­tion.

Debussy wrote in April 1902, “I have long been exper­i­ment­ing with the writ­ing of stage music, but I have imag­ined it in such an unusu­al form that after var­i­ous attempts I have almost giv­en it up”. At the same time, his lyri­cal dra­ma Pel­léas and Mélisande in five acts and thir­teen pic­tures was pre­miered in Paris. There was a divid­ed audi­ence at the pre­mier. The author of the play on which the script was based, Mau­rice Maeter­linck, who lat­er won a Nobel Prize, did not even appear at the pre­miere, where­as, the hired heck­lers did. It remains a mys­tery whether it was the music itself that upset the philoso­pher-poet, or the fact that his wife did not sing the role of Mélisande, which she had been promised.

Debussy’s work breaks with sev­er­al French tra­di­tions: there is no bal­let and no major choral scenes in it. There is, how­ev­er, a lot of recita­ti­vo: singing speech adapt­ed to the French lan­guage. Instead of catchy melodies, the vocal parts only move out of their monot­o­nous rhythm when the emo­tion calls for it. But even at the emo­tion­al cli­max­es, the com­pos­er pre­scribes a pianis­si­mo vol­ume and keeps the orches­tra low, cre­at­ing an inti­ma­cy that is quite unusu­al on the oper­at­ic stage.

The short plot of the piece: Golaud meets and mar­ries the much-younger Mélisande. His broth­er, Pel­léas, falls in love with the bride. As they meet, the feel­ings between the young peo­ple grow deep­er and deep­er, and their romance ends trag­i­cal­ly when Golaud mur­ders his broth­er. Mélisande gives birth to her husband’s child and dies. The sto­ry is almost irrel­e­vant, the sym­bols are more excit­ing. The for­est, the motif of get­ting lost, the well, the ring, the hair and the light are just some of the intri­cate sym­bols of the piece.

Debussy’s opera is rarely staged because of the many loca­tions and the com­plex­i­ty of the parts. In addi­tion to the three stars, Peti­bon, Richter and Chris­toy­an­nis, the French bass Nico­las Testé (described by the Mon­tre­al Gazette as “the excel­lent and trag­ic King Arkel”), the dark-toned Yvonne Naef (return­ing after Fischer’s Fal­staff), and Peter Har­vey (com­pared to the voice of God by the emi­nent spe­cial­ist Melanie Eske­nazi) will appear.

The opera is a joint pro­duc­tion of the Iván Fis­ch­er Opera Com­pa­ny, Müpa Budapest, the Vicen­za Opera Fes­ti­val and the Spo­le­to Fes­ti­val dei Due Mon­di.