Dutch National Opera presents

Pelléas et Mélisande Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

This show was to been seen in June 2019

Mysterious family drama

Duration 3:15

Breaks 1

By Claude Debussy

Language French

Surtitles Dutch and English

At the 2019 Holland Festival DNO will present a new production of Pelléas et Mélisande. With its dreamy, ominous atmosphere, it is the only opera Claude Debussy finished. This work is regarded as an absolute apex and turning point in opera history. 

Team and cast

Stéphane Denève (L'amour des trois oranges, Dialogues des Carmélites) leads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The title roles are performed by the young star singers Paul Appleby and Elena Tsallagova. Pelléas et Mélisande is directed by the Frenchman Olivier Py (Roméo et Juliette).


The story of Pelléas et Mélisande is based on a symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck about a vicious love triangle entangling two brothers and one woman.

Starcrossed Pelléas and Mélisande

While out hunting one day, Golaud happens on a confused Mélisande weeping at a spring. He marries her and brings her home to his grandfather King Arkel’s castle, where Golaud’s younger half-brother Pelléas also lives. Mélisande and Pelléas fall in love. One day, she is playing with her wedding ring when it accidentally falls into a well. At same instant, Golaud takes a fall from his horse. Furious over her missing ring, Golaud sends Mélisande and Pelléas out to find it, instructing his son Yniold to spy on them to see if they are lovers. Yniold finds the couple embracing and kills Pelléas; Mélisande later dies in childbed after giving birth to a daughter. The symbolic significance of each of the opera’s four main characters, with Mélisande embodying the soul, Pelléas the mind, Golaud matter and Arkel the intellect, gives the plot deeper resonance.

Nature and imagination

Explaining what led him to write the opera Pelléas et Mélisande, Claude Debussy said: ‘I wanted music to have a freedom that she perhaps has more than any other art, as it is not restricted to a more or less exact reproduction of nature, but instead deals with the mysterious correspondences between Nature and the Imagination (...). The drama of Pelléas which, despite its dream-like atmosphere, contains far more humanity than those so-called “real-life documents”, seemed to suit my intentions admirably. In it there is an evocative language whose sensitivity could be extended into music and into the orchestral backcloth.’

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the world’s leading orchestras, renowned for its unique sound and stylistic flexibility, and has worked with the most distinguished composers and conductors. Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky all led the orchestra on more than one occasion. Since its formation in 1888, the orchestra has had only seven chief conductors: Willem Kes, Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly, Mariss Jansons and – from September 2016 to August 2018 – Daniele Gatti. At this time, the position is vacant. The orchestra’s educational programme, RCO Academy, trains young talented musicians for orchestral careers. In 2020, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is accompanying Rusalka at DNO.



Stéphane Denève


The French conductor STÉPHANE DENÈVE (musical director) is known for his expertise in the French repertoire. He is Music Director of Brussels Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and will be Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra from the 2019-2020 season.

Olivier Py

Stage director

The French director and author OLIVIER PY (director) studied art, stagecraft and theology in Lyon and Paris. His first theatre work, Des Oranges et des ongles, premiered in 1988, the year in which he founded his own company.

Team, Cast and Chorus

Stéphane Denève
Stage Director
Olivier Py
Set and Costume Designer
Pierre-André Weitz
Lighting Designer
Bertrand Killy
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Dutch National Opera Chorus
Chorus Master
Ad Broeksteeg
Pelléas, petit-fils d’Arkel
Paul Appleby
Golaud, petit-fils d’Arkel
Brian Mulligan
Arkel, roi d’Allemonde
Peter Rose
Le Petit Yniold
Gregor Hoffmann & Maximilian Leicher
(Tölzer Knabenchor)
Le médicin
Michael Wilmering
Elena Tsallagova
Geneviève, mère de Pelléas et Golaud
Katia Ledoux
Le berger
Frederik Bergman

This performance is supported by: