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Pelléas et Mélisande

by Jessica WELDHEN

‘Pelléas et Mélisande’ is seen as more than just an opera; it is a major work of 20th century impressionist music. Debussy’s only complete opera is often referred to as a “masterpiece”, and quite rightly so! Disturbing yet highly compelling, it’s sure to sell-out at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera in October.

First performed in Paris in 1902, ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’ has retained its French libretto, and is still so popular today thanks to its unspecified medieval setting in the mythical land of Allemonde. Comprising five acts, this opera is based on a love triangle between Prince Golaud, a young woman named Mélisade and Golaud’s half-brother Pelléas, with a clever balance between the modern and historical. It is a wonderfully uncomplicated plot which uses deceit, love, power and mysticism in just the right measures, inevitably propelling the story towards tragedy.

Having found Mélisade lost in a forest, Prince Golaud marries and returns home with her to the castle of his grandfather, King Arkel. However, it is not long before Mélisande’s affections are diverted towards Golaud’s younger half-brother Pelléas. Suspecting his wife’s betrayal, Golaud tries all he can to expose the truth. The lovers arrange to meet for one final time to confess their love, only to be interrupted by a furious Golaud, who kills Pelléas with a sword. Mélisade flees to safety and gives birth to a daughter prematurely, but dies shortly after with her husband still demanding the truth.

(2nd – 9th October 2009, Teatro dell’Opera, Piazza Beniamino Gigli, 1, 00184 Rome, Italy)

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