For this production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande that world-premiered in Berlin last 15 October, Klaus Grünberg and co-designer Anne Kuhn conceived a real theatrical machine for the whole set. The scene appears as an exterior shell, a façade of draped velvet, from which a small opening has been cut out. The opening reveals an internal mechanism in which the characters are claustrophobically trapped and inexorably merge in and out of the scene moved by a revolving stage.
In plan, the stage is made of a series of concentric circular crowns – or rings – revolving in opposite directions, of which we see only a sector. The draped façade is an elaborate painting on velvet, occasionally combined with a projection. In contrast to this, the interior walls, reminding of perforated metal plates, convey an idea of mechanics, while their perspective scaling makes the figures appear bigger than they are, focusing the spectator’s attention on the individuals.
Scenography Today has spoken to Klaus Grünberg to know more about the set.
“In Pelléas et Mélisande, people constantly meet and drift apart,” says Grünberg. “In our view, all metaphors of water, light, flowers, fountains, always refer to the relationships of the persons to one another.”
“So we came up with a kind of family constellation machine; a clockwork of relations; a merciless music box. Also a grinder of the family. A machine with no beginning and no end: the concentric rings have always turned and will continue to do so.”
Grünberg expresses satisfaction with how the director welcomed their design: “We are very happy that Barrie Kosky saw right away the opportunity offered by such a scenography and decided that no figure should ever enter or leave the scene by himself. This way, our machine could become an autonomous fellow-player of the story.”
In Grünberg’s work process, in fact, the set is designed in complete autonomy until he and his co-designer come to a final result. The final design is then presented to the rest of the team entering a dialogue with music and direction as a strong partner.
In Pelléas et Mélisande, director Barrie Kosky’s concept and Klaus Grünberg’s design interact perfectly. “This,” says Grünberg “is actually the ideal scenography in which direction and space are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.”