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Pelléas and Mélisande

A couple of years ago I made these designs for an imaginary production of Claude Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande. It occurred to me the opera is really about a highly dysfunctional family and so I thought to approach as if it were an Ibsen or Strindberg play by updating the setting to late 19th century Europe. Above is the opening scene where Golaud finds Mélisande by a pool in a forest.

I imagined a stationary unit set that would remain throughout. It  could have props easily moved in and out and backgrounds projected on a cyclorama. For these pictures I used drawings and cutouts on acetate overlays for the foregrounds and separate watercolours behind the unit set painting – also a cutout.

This is the scene in which Golaud and Pelléas explore an underground grotto.

This final scene shows the death of Mélisande. I wanted to give it a sense of transfiguration to reflect the unearthly beauty of the music at this point in the opera. I imagine the light from the rear of the stage gradually increasing to a blinding intensity as the opera closes.

Here are some  of the inspirations for my designs. Sigh, I long to design an opera. What I really need to do is make a toy theatre!