In Usher, the musical worlds of Claude Debussy and the Flemish composer Annelies Van Parys enter into a surprising dialogue with one another. Together with the librettist Gaea Schoeters, Van Parys has created a new chamber opera on the basis of Debussy’s outlines for La chute de la maison Usher (1908-17), after Edgar Allan Poe.
Roderick Usher, the last male descendant of a declining dynasty, shares the dilapidated ancestral house with his twin sister Madeline. Roderick suffers from an acute physical illness and has called upon a childhood friend for help. Roderick’s sister is also ill, suffering from severe physical attacks, and is being cared for by a resident doctor. Roderick is increasingly in the grip of irrational fears that drive him to madness.
In Usher, Debussy’s original unfinished opera is turned into a new and fascinating story about present political developments that respond to fears and paranoia and which violate personal human freedoms in the name of protection and security.
Van Parys had previously adapted Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande as a piece of music theatre. Her opera debut was with the thriller Private View, after Alfred Hitchcock. These experiences have now resulted in Usher. The French director Philippe Quesne, artistic head of the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, drew inspiration from the American horror films of the 1970s.
Discover our team
In the press
“The music is delightfully composed”
“The music is delightfully composed, not least in the congenial portrayal of evil crows that flock across the stage and, pleasantly and anachronistically enough, Van Parys has turned to arias, clear solo numbers for the audience to relax in (not to say that the melodies are in any way calming).”
★★★★ “Annelies Van Parys has seamlessly intertwined her own music with the composer’s unfinished work”
Belgian composer Annelies Van Parys goes a step further, creating a chamber opera in, with, and around Debussy’s fragments. Gaea Schoeters has written a new libretto, similarly intertwined with the original. The resulting 90-minute work succeeds both for its proximity to Debussy’s original and for the degree to which Van Parys has made the piece her own.