Opera in two parts, in five acts, in French with Hungarian and English surtitles
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! An exciting pairing with this remarkable and somewhat surreal world will be the Danish ensemble Hotel Pro Forma founded by Kirsten Dehlholm, and their unique stylistic language. What they do is create productions that span branches of the arts and genres, merging the visual arts with text, theatre, installations and architecture, not to mention the many other forms they develop through their constant dialogue with each other.
Prince Golaud, lost while out hunting, stumbles upon a beautiful young girl, frightened and weeping by a fountain. She refuses to tell him anything beyond her name, but reluctantly agrees to go with him. Golaud’s mother Geneviève introduces Mélisande to Allemonde and to Golaud’s half-brother, Pelléas, who she asks to look after her, who has by now become Golaud’s wife.
Pelléas and Mélisande are by a well in the forest. Mélisande is playing with a ring Golaud gave her. As the clock chimes noon, she drops it into the water. At the same moment, Golaud is thrown from his horse while out hunting. When Mélisande comes to him he notices her ring is lost. Scared, she lies, telling him she lost it in a cave. Although it is night, Golaud insists she goes to look for it, accompanied by Pelléas.
Mélisande is in a castle tower, brushing her hair. Pelléas arrives below and tells her he is leaving. Golaud questions his son Yniold about Pelléas and Mélisande but the small boy knows nothing. Golaud’s jealous fantasies about his pregnant wife are stirred.
Golaud’s grandfather Arkel, the king tries to reassure Mélisande that she may yet be happy in Allemonde, but Golaud interrupts and becomes angry with her, throwing her to the ground. Pelléas prepares to leave and meets Mélisande by the well for the last time, where they confess their love. But Golaud is waiting in the dark and stabs Pelléas, before pursuing a fleeing Mélisande and turning the knife on himself, unsuccessfully.
Mélisande has given birth to a daughter, but is dying. Golaud visits her and tries to discover the truth of her relationship with Pelléas. She innocently confesses that she loved him, and dies.