Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande returns to the Hungarian State Opera repertoire after fifty years

A new production of Pelléas and Mélisande by Kirsten Dehlholm and Hotel Pro Forma is presented at the Eiffel Art Studios featuring Zsolt Haja / Máté Fülep, Polina Pasztircsák and István Kovács from 25 February 2022. The Hungarian State Opera is conducted by internationally renowned Frédéric Chaslin.

The plot might remind some viewers of Tristan und Isolde, as it also involves an older man standing in the way of two young lovers whose passion for each other costs them their lives. This piece nearly devoid of actual stage action unfolds in the borderlands between dreams and reality, which is exactly what piqued Debussy’s interest, who spent an entire decade composing his masterpiece which contravened French operatic traditions and the popular Wagnerian trends of the age.

Frédéric_ Chaslin 2021. Photo: Attila Nag
Frédéric_ Chaslin 2021. Photo: Attila Nagy

Although the Paris premiere of this masterpiece in Opéra Comique in 1902 turned into scandal due mostly to a feud between the composer and librettist Maeterlinck, later it became a success with audiences and was staged in several countries in Europe as well as in the USA, bringing international fame to Debussy. His work went on to inspire such great personalities as Oliver Messiaen, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, or the jazz composer Bill Evans. The Hungarian Royal Opera first presented Pelléas et Mélisande in 1925 staged by László Márkus, where it ran for five performances only. The 1963 revival by director András Mikó was a greater success, it was performed forty times by 1970.

An exciting pairing with the remarkable and somewhat surreal world of the opera is the Danish ensemble Hotel Pro Forma founded by Kirsten Dehlholm (b. 1945), and their unique stylistic language. Their works are not unknown to the Hungarian public: in the mid-1980s, they presented the production Terra Australis Incognita in Budapest, and they returned with Operation: Orfeo in 2010. The new Hungarian State Opera production of Pelléas et Mélisande is co-directed by Marie Dahl, the visuals were designed by Maja Ziska (sets), Marta Twarowska (costumes), Jesper Kongshaug (lighting), and Adam Ryde Ankarfeldt (projection). Cast includes Zsolt Haja / Máté Fülep as Pelléas, Polina Pasztircsák as Mélisande and István Kovács as Golaud as well as Andrea Meláth, András Kiss, Anna Karácsonyi / Veronika Szabó and Tamás Pekárdy. The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra is conducted by the renowned French conductor, composer and pianist Frédéric Chaslin, with the Opera Chorus featuring on recording.

Related Stories