Pelléas et Mélisande
The most intimate love drama in French opera, or the art of pure feeling, revisited by Eric Ruf from the Comédie Française
Louis Langrée © B Linero
Eric Ruf © B Enguerrand
Approximate running time 3h
Sung in French with French subtitles
Debussy, accompanied by Mallarmé, attended the one and only performance of Maeterlinck's play in 1893. It was a shock for him. In the prose and in that dream-like atmosphere, he found an echo of his own questions. For a long time, Debussy has been searching for a musical form in which the characters sang "naturally", not in a language he saw as made up of "outdated traditions". In this case, the "literary matter" is completely new for a lyric work, alternating unbridled sensuality and unprecedented violence.
The incredibly modern thing about this work is also a certain idea of destiny: not the destiny that drives people on to glorious feats of arms, but the destiny that strikes people down and that the composer conveys by the eloquent silences that stud the work. But language is not the only factor in this exceptional work. The orchestra is marvellous, not only when it dazzles but also when it unobtrusively accompanies, underscores and supports the text. All in all, the work offers a dismal view of humanity, utterly devoid of hope or mercy. Even the lovers' innocence, despite being so pure, finds no grace here. But what a magnificent work! Its strength and modernity make it one of the works that have "paved the way for others to follow", as its author foretold.
To serve this poetic drama, Eric Ruf - actor, director, set designer and now head of the Comédie Française - will focus on the work's inherently theatrical material. The musical side has been entrusted to Louis Langrée, one of the best performers of French music and especially Debussy today who will conduct the Orchestre National de France its core repertoire. As for the young couple, it will be represented by an ideal duo: Jean-Sébastien Bou, probably one of the best Pelléas of his generation, and Patricia Petibon, who we can picture immediately absorbed by the twilight musical and dramatic force of this exceptional part.