Chamber Opera (2018)

Music by

Claude Debussy / Annelies Van Parys

Text by

Claude Debussy / Gaea Schoeters based on
»The Fall of the House of Usher«
by Edgar Allan Poe

Comissioned work of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the Folkoperan Stockholm

Alongside his single completed opera »Pelléas et Mélisande«, Claude Debussy pursued numerous other musical theatre projects, none of which were realised. By 1908 at the latest, he was captivated by the short story »The Fall of the House of Usher« by the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. In Poe’s story, a nameless friend of his youth witnesses the internal and external collapse of the last scion of a noble family in decline.

In atmospheric illustrations, the moods of Roderick Usher, vacillating between fear, delirium and ecstasy, are connected to the surroundings of the mysterious familial estate: eerie marshland, a crypt in which Roderick’s supposedly dead twin sister, Lady Madeline, is buried, and not least the house itself, which comes eerily alive. Since her 2015 opera »Private View« based on an Alfred Hitchcock film, if not earlier, the Belgian Annelies Van Parys has established her reputation as one of the most innovative composers of contemporary musical theatre. Her work is distinguished by a keen interest in the facets of the human singing voice as well as an idiosyncratic approach to instrumentation.
Starting with the material of the uncompleted opera – Debussy left behind several libretto drafts, a musical fragment of about 20 minutes and some sketches – in »Usher« Van Parys develops a chamber music theatre that probes the category of the uncanny in a specific musical and theatrical way.