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CSO Continues Groundbreaking Three-Year Pelléas Trilogy

CSO Continues Groundbreaking Three-Year Pelléas Trilogy

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The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Music Director Louis Langrée are pleased to announce details of the second installment of a three-year exploration of Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1893 symbolist play, Pelléas et Mélisande, a collaboration with director, production designer and visual artist James Darrah. This artistic undertaking utilizes groundbreaking visual elements, complementing orchestral works by Schoenberg, Fauré and Debussy, performed by the CSO

The Trilogy began last year with Part I: Smoke and incorporated visual dance elements projected transparently above the orchestra’s stage during a performance of Schoenberg’s adaptation of the work. On Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2016, the Trilogy continues with Part II: Water at the CSO’s temporary home at the Taft Theatre in Downtown Cincinnati. The second installment explores Fauré’s incidental music and will include spoken and sung theatre with a new translation of Maeterlinck’s rarely performed original source text by prominent operatic director Stephen Wadsworth. Also on the concert program are Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune [“Prelude for the Afternoon of a Faun”] and Nocturnes

“The Taft Theatre will be transformed into a world of shifting multimedia and live performance art that propels the CSO’s three-year Pelléas Trilogy toward spoken word, narrative, and the arrival of the story’s potent key characters,” said Mr. Darrah

Mr. Darrah and his collaborators including projection designer Adam Larsen, have curated a team of versatile actors to explore the rich text (which draws many parallels with Shakespeare’s Hamlet) and its symbolic themes of fate, love and longing. Celebrated actor Blake Berris, who has appeared in everything from Days of Our Lives to Breaking Bad, will perform the role of Pelléas, while mezzo- soprano Naomi O’Connell, known for her roles in musical theatre as well as opera, will perform the role of Mélisande. The production will also incorporate rich water imagery and other surreal, dreamlike theatrical elements. 

“One of the most important movements in art was the development of French Symbolism in the late 19th century, pioneered first by the poet Charles Baudelaire, and further developed by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine. A reaction against realism, symbolist artists sought to represent truth through metaphor and symbolic meaning. A defining moment in the symbolist movement was the premiere of Maurice Maeterlinck’s play, Pelléas et Mélisande, in Paris in 1893. The play was immensely popular, and was translated into English for a production in London in 1898, for which composer Gabriel Fauré was commissioned to write incidental music...In Year Two [of the Pelléas Trilogy], we explore the literary source material with a reconstruction of Fauré’s incidental music paired with dramatic scenes from Maeterlinck’s play. The first half [of the concert] features two works by Claude Debussy, a composer who embraced and was deeply influenced by the symbolist movement in art; and serves to foreshadow Year Three of the Pelléas Trilogy, which will feature Debussy’s own operatic adaptation of Pelléas et Mélisande,” said Mr. Langrée

The CSO’s 2017-18 season (performed at newly-renovated Music Hall) will feature Part III: Stone— Debussy’s 1902 opera by the same name in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera. Dates and times for these performances will be announced at a later date. 

Tickets for the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 performances start at just $12 and are available by calling the CSO Box Office at (513) 381-3300 or visiting

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