Star-Studded Design Team Reimagines Claude Debussy’s Only Opera, Pelléas et Mélisande

Photography by Annemie Augustijns.

A new incarnation of Pelléas et Mélisande, the only opera ever completed by Claude Debussy, in 1902, is a feast for the eyes—literally. Current-day directors and choreographers and envisioned the production as a window into the human soul. “The libretto is so much about vision that we thought to make the story unfold inside an eyeball,” Jalet explains.

The two teamed with performance artist for set design, video artist for projections, and fashion designer for costumes. “When you collaborate with so many, the challenge is to make their work complement—instead of overshadow—each other,” Jalet adds.

Photography courtesy of Marco Brambilla.

Each played a key role in reinterpreting the dark fairy tale as surreal and modern. “It was Marina’s idea to bring the story out of its medieval context and into a science-fiction setting,” Brambilla, who recently directed , recalls. In addition to designing enormous kinetic sculptures resembling crystals, Abramovic set a 23-foot-high screen in front of a concave mirror to showcase Brambilla’s videoscapes, which artfully manipulate NASA Hubble Space Telescope photography. The result: a fantastical planetarium that symbolizes both the universe and the characters’ subconscious. . . as well as resembling an oversize eye.

Timed to the centennial of the composer’s death, Pelléas et Mélisande opened with performances in Antwerp and Ghent, Belgium, with a three-year touring schedule in the works. It’s worth seeing.

Photography by Annemie Augustijns.
Photography courtesy of Marco Brambilla.
Photography courtesy of Marco Brambilla.
Photography courtesy of Marco Brambilla.
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