Created in 2016
Barbara de Limburg
Laurent Pelly on The Golden Cockerel
The Golden Cockerel is fascinating in a number of ways: for its absurdities, indeed, but also for the premonitory nature of its denunciation of a particular reality. In relation to the latter aspect, telling the fable of The Golden Cockerel seems to me to do a greater service to the work than would a precise reconstitution of its historical context for a contemporary audience that is not necessarily familiar with its origins or with the circumstances of its composition. Nor do I find the idea of setting it in the present interesting. It is the universal dimension of The Golden Cockerel that moves and enthrals me: Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera is first and foremost an indictment of autocracy, despotism, and stupidity – despotism and stupidity that, unfortunately, remain the same today.
In our handling of this work in collaboration with the set designer Barbara de Limburg, there are references to Russia over the last hundred years; but those references are not the focus of our staging, which concentrates on the human issues. I often take as my starting point the idea that a text is an author’s dream – or that of one of his characters. For me, The Golden Cockerel is, above all, Dodon’s dream. We observe the decline and senile madness of this idiotic tyrant, who, all in all, is like most men. Dodon is not the first man to wish, as he approaches his life’s end, to abandon all responsibility and yet get bogged down in a wearying and oppressive position of power, all the while dreaming naively of rest and fantasising about the sensuality of a woman. Visually, accordingly, together with Barbara de Limburg we came up with a space that makes this dream visible, in its most brutal, absurd, and yet poetic aspects.
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