Les Enfants Terribles is the story of a brother and sister – Paul and Elisabeth – cut off from the outside world and dangerously dependent on each other. The psychological “game” that intertwines their lives twists inevitably to tragedy. Full of kinetic music, Glass’ opera is uniquely scored for three grand pianos which overlap to create a transformative and hypnotic sound world. This site-specific production sheds new light on the work’s unique conception as a dance opera, blending a superb cast of four singers with four dancers choreographed by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano (Semele, 2016).
April 3, 5, 7, 13 & 14, 2019
LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES
A DANCE OPERA
An opera by Philip Glass
Based upon the work “Les Enfants Terribles” by Jean Cocteau
Copyright Editions Grasset & Fasquelle-1929
© 1996 Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc. Used by Permission.
The story concerns the siblings Paul and Elisabeth who start this story without a father and with a bed-ridden mother, whom Elisabeth looks after. At school Paul is obsessed with the feminine looking Dargelos, while Paul’s school friend Gérard is enthralled by the siblings. However, after Paul becomes ill when Dargelos throws a snowball with a stone inside at him, Elisabeth cares for both him and their mother. While Elisabeth nurses Paul it is revealed that the siblings enjoy a relationship characterised by a psychodrama known in the book as "The Game", which can only be played in their shared bedroom, elevated by the Game-play into "The Room". The game devised by Paul and Elisabeth often involves the siblings trying to annoy or irritate each other, by histrionic behavior on the part of Elisabeth and by a taciturn refusal to be affected by Paul, where the winner is the one that leaves the contest with the last word, a sense of superiority and ideally having caused a display of angry frustration from the other. This game continues after Paul recovers and their mother has died.
Elisabeth soon takes up a job as a model, where she meets Agathe, a girl who was orphaned at a young age after her drug-addicted parents committed suicide. Agathe, characterised by her strong resemblance to Dargelos, soon moves in with Paul and Elisabeth.
Elisabeth is first to get married. She weds a wealthy young man who dies on his way to a business meeting before the married couple can even enjoy a honeymoon. As a result of his death, the siblings inherit a large house which they move into. Paul soon finds himself in love with Agathe. Elisabeth cannot stand to see her brother happy, and knows she must draw him back into their shared private world. Writing of his love to Agathe, Paul stakes his life on her reciprocation. Elisabeth intercepts the letter and prevents it from reaching Agathe. She tells her that Gérard is in love with her. Elisabeth then manages to bully Gérard, who is in love with her, into marrying Agathe and as a result helps break her brother’s heart. She feels herself condemned and pursued by the Furies thereafter, for the crime of having destroyed Paul and Agathe's happiness through deceit.
After Agathe and Gérard's marriage, Gérard meets with Dargelos, now a collector of poisons, who sends one of these poisons to Paul, also an enthusiast, as a gift. The poison is opium, which Jean Cocteau, the author of this book, was addicted to himself. Paul takes most of the opium in despair. As Paul lies dying he is attended by Agathe, who, reviving Paul temporarily, confesses her love to him, and the plot is laid bare. At this moment, knowing that Paul is dying, Elisabeth senses that this is yet another twist in the game and by dying he has beaten her to the final move. She then shoots herself and by a matter of seconds beats Paul, leaving a frightened Agathe with two dead bodies.