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Le théâtre de la mort de Maeterlinck et ses premières représentations en Russie (1904-1905)

Abstract : Maeterlinck’s essay The Tragic in Daily Life (1894) presents a challenge to theatre practitioners. The writer calls for a silent and static theatre, focused on the relationship of soul to soul. His early plays break Aristotelian codes and reject the plausibility in the name of the convention of a choral theatre where voices replace speeches; a theatre of depersonalized presence made up of obscure shadows and forebodings; a static theatre whose expressiveness is based on an inner dynamism; a theatre, built on the non-coincidence of gestures and words. Famous for his realistic performances of Chekhov, Ibsen or Gorki, Stanislavsky was striving in 1904 to break out of this frame where he felt cramped. So he embarked upon a hazardous experiment: the staging of three one-act plays by Maeterlinck, The Intruder, Interior, The Blind. He believing that it would be enough for him to refine the realism and distill it in some spirituality to succeed within his project. But the actors of the Moscow Art Théâtre, accustomed to experience the truth of life, failed to translate the existential anguish that had been only expressed by the stage environment (scenery, light and sound effects).... Stanislavsky failed to make his actors embody these transparent shadows full of sensations that were the trademarks of Maeterlinck’s characters, to make them transcend all difficulties related to the materiality of their body. This failure led Stanislavsky to open an experimental studio in the spring of 1905 where he invited the young Meyerhold to test a symbolist repertoire. For staging The Death of Tintagiles, Meyerhod linked Maeterlinck's dramas to medieval mysteries. The performance taking the form of a ritual, and served by actors cast as priests. Meyerhold focuses on a special diction. In order to establish the distance of the mystery, he blurs the contours of actors and scenery by tulle and light. A strange music, a capella choir must free the souls’ songs. To establish a canvas of movements, which must act as a plastic music, as the drawing of feelings, Meyerhold refers to fine arts of the second half of the 19th century but also to pictures and sculptures of the Italian Renaissance. But the studio experiment fails, too. Stanislavsky and Meyerhold concluded that reforming theatre required not only new performing techniques, but also a new acting methods. They both continued to work upon it, following divergent paths. The triumph of The Blue Bird in 1908 at the Moscow Art Theatre as a world premiere, erased from memory the failures of four years previous. As for Meyerhold, he would still face Maeterlinck at the Vera Komissarjevskaya Theatre in Petersburg, where Sister Beatrice (1906) was hailed a great success along with Pelléas and Mélisande (1907). These experiments prepared the theatre of the future through the association with the pedagogy of acting via performing skills and by making the spectator a fourth creator, inviting them to inventively complete the allusions witnessed on stage. For staging Maeterlinck, to avoid the confusing theatre and life, it was necessary to keep the artistic distance that could (and should) make death a beautiful object of representation within a "joyful apocalypse".
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Contributor : Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 1:41:50 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 7, 2020 - 9:15:13 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02284999, version 1


Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu. Le théâtre de la mort de Maeterlinck et ses premières représentations en Russie (1904-1905). Rosina Neginsky, Marthe Ségrestin, Luba Jurgenson. Anxiety, Angst, Anguish in Fin de siècle. Art and Literature, Cambridge Scholars, pp.277-290, 2020, 978-1-5275-4383-6. ⟨hal-02284999⟩



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