Even the late Henri Dutilleux never wrote an opera for fear of producing simply a pale imitation of Debussy's masterpiece. During rehearsals, the composer instructed his cast to 'forget you are singers. Garden was a big hit with Debussy, even if her pronunciation was on the dodgy side…. BBC Music Magazine digital editions.

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The only opera Debussy ever completed, it is considered a landmark in 20th-century music. The plot concerns a love triangle. He marries her and brings her back to the castle of his grandfather, King Arkel of Allemonde. Looking back in , Debussy explained the protracted genesis of his only finished opera: "For a long time I had been striving to write music for the theatre, but the form in which I wanted it to be was so unusual that after several attempts I had given up on the idea.

In a letter of January , he wrote, "My life is hardship and misery thanks to this opera. Everything about it is wrong for me. Debussy was already formulating a new conception of opera. In a letter to Ernest Guiraud in he wrote: "The ideal would be two associated dreams. No time, no place. No big scene [ Too much singing and the musical settings are too cumbersome [ No discussion or arguments between the characters whom I see at the mercy of life or destiny. Maeterlinck's plays were tremendously popular with the avant-garde in the Paris of the s.

They were anti-naturalistic in content and style, forsaking external drama for a symbolic expression of the inner life of the characters. Debussy found in it the ideal opera libretto for which he had been searching.

In it there is an evocative language whose sensitivity could be extended into music and into the orchestral backcloth. By the time Materlinck granted it Debussy had already started work on the love scene in Act IV, a first version of which was completed in draft by early September.

Debussy described the playwright as being initially as shy as a "girl meeting an eligible young man", but the two soon warmed to each other. Maeterlinck authorised Debussy to make whatever cuts in the play he wanted. He also admitted to the composer that he knew nothing about music. He also cut back on the elaborate descriptions that Maeterlinck was fond of.

Debussy's method of composition was fairly systematic; he worked on only one act at a time but not necessarily in chronological order.

Debussy finished the short score of the opera without detailed orchestration on 17 August At this point he added the full orchestration, finished the vocal score, and made several revisions.

It is this version that went into rehearsals in January As he confided to his friend Camille Mauclair in "It is no slight work.

I should like to find a place for it, but you know I am badly received everywhere. He wrote: "if this work has any merit, it is above all in the connection between its scenic and musical movement".

Debussy was reluctant at first but he later recalled how impressed he was when he heard her sing: "That was the gentle voice that I had heard in my inmost being, with its hesitantly tender and captivating charm, such that I had barely dared to hope for.

Maeterlinck claimed that he only learned of Garden's casting when it was announced in the press at the end of December When this failed—as it was bound to do, since he had given Debussy his written authorisation to stage the opera as he saw fit in [22] —he told Leblanc that he was going to give Debussy "a few whacks to teach him some manners. Madame Debussy intervened; the composer calmly remained seated. He later confessed: "In this affair I was entirely wrong and he was a thousand times right.

Debussy was present for most of them. Yniold's main scene Act IV Scene 3 was cut and only reinstated in later performances, when the role was given to a woman. Someone—in Mary Garden's view, Maeterlinck—distributed a salacious parody of the libretto. Debussy agreed but kept the libretto unaltered in the published score.

Messager described the reaction: "[It was] certainly not a triumph, but no longer the disaster of two days before From the second performance onwards, the public remained calm and above all curious to hear this work everyone was talking about The little group of admirers, Conservatoire pupils and students for the most part, grew day by day Critical reaction was mixed. Some accused the music of being "sickly and practically lifeless" [33] and of sounding "like the noise of a squeaky door or a piece of furniture being moved about, or a child crying in the distance.

Debussy's friend Paul Dukas lauded the opera, Romain Rolland described it as "one of the three or four outstanding achievements in French musical history", [36] and Vincent d'Indy wrote an extensive review which compared the work to Wagner and earlyth-century Italian opera.

Teyte also wrote about the composer's perfectionist character and his relations with the cast:. As a teacher he was pedantic—that's the only word. Really pedantic [ He was—it's in all his music—a very sensual man. No one seemed to like him. Notable later productions include those with set designs by Jean Cocteau first performed in Marseille in , and the Covent Garden production conducted by Pierre Boulez. In , Marius Constant compiled a minute "Symphonie" based on the opera.

The score calls for: [30]. Prince Golaud, grandson of King Arkel of Allemonde, has become lost while hunting in the forest. He discovers a frightened, weeping girl sitting by a spring in which a crown is visible.

Golaud persuades her to come with him before the forest gets dark. Six months have passed. He has received a letter from his friend Marcellus, who is on his deathbed, and wants to travel to say goodbye to him. Night falls. He tells her he might have to go away tomorrow. It is a hot summer day. People used to believe it possessed miraculous powers to cure blindness but since the old king's eyesight started to fail, they no longer come there.

Her hair loosens and falls into the water. He also notes that the clock was striking twelve as the ring dropped into the well. He replies, "the truth. He is wounded, having fallen from his horse while hunting. The horse suddenly bolted for no reason as the clock struck twelve. She wants to go away with Golaud. He asks her the reason for her unhappiness but she refuses to say. Golaud says that she is too old to be crying for such reasons and takes her hands to comfort her and notices the wedding ring is missing.

Golaud orders her to go and search for it at once before the tide comes in, even though night has fallen. The moon comes out lighting the cave and reveals three beggars sleeping in the cave. He decides they should come back another day. He cannot reach her hand but her long hair tumbles down from the window and he kisses and caresses it instead. A flock of doves takes flight. It is noon.

The boy reveals little that Golaud wants to know since he is too innocent to understand what he is asking. He threatens to scream unless Golaud lets him down again. Golaud leads him away. He asks her to kiss him. Golaud bursts in with blood on his forehead — he claims it was caused by a thorn hedge.

He says that another peasant has died of starvation. He commands her to close them or "I will shut them for a long time. When Golaud leaves, Arkel asks if he is drunk. Arkel comments: "If I were God, I would have pity on the hearts of men". Yniold tries to lift a boulder to free his golden ball, which is trapped between it and some rocks.

As darkness falls, he hears a flock of sheep suddenly stop bleating. A shepherd explains that they have turned onto a path that doesn't lead back to the sheepfold, but does not answer when Yniold asks where they will sleep.

Yniold goes off to find someone to talk to. She was able to slip out without Golaud's noticing. It is Golaud, who has been watching the couple from behind a tree. The doctor assures Golaud that despite her wound, her condition is not serious. Overcome with guilt, Golaud claims he has killed for no reason. She maintains her innocence in spite of Golaud's increasingly desperate pleas to her to tell the truth.

Arkel and the doctor return. The room fills with serving women, although no one can tell who has summoned them. At the moment of death, the serving women fall to their knees. Arkel comforts the sobbing Golaud. Rather than engaging a librettist to adapt the original play for him as was customary , Debussy chose to set the text directly, making only a number of cuts.

Maeterlinck's play was in prose rather than verse. Russian composers, notably Mussorgsky whom Debussy admired , had experimented with setting prose opera libretti in the s, but this was highly unusual in France or Italy or Germany.


Pelléas et Mélisande

Schoenberg's source was Maeterlinck's eponymous play, a work that occupies a singular place in musical history. Its impact was such that in the wake of its premiere in , composers began vying with one another to produce some sort of setting. Schoenberg's version, which can be heard in London and Manchester later this month, is one of four adaptations that still form a regular part of the repertoire. A French-speaking Belgian, Maeterlinck was one of the principal figures of the symbolist movement. He dispensed with the fashionable trappings of naturalist drama, both by placing his protagonists in quasi-medieval or legendary settings, and by focusing on what he believed to be the essentially indefinable nature of human emotion. The play's inspiration was in part autobiographical. Born in Ghent, Maeterlinck spent many of his formative years in the family home at nearby Oostacke, surrounded by a windswept landscape of canals and mist.


The perfect triangle

The only opera Debussy ever completed, it is considered a landmark in 20th-century music. The plot concerns a love triangle. He marries her and brings her back to the castle of his grandfather, King Arkel of Allemonde. Looking back in , Debussy explained the protracted genesis of his only finished opera: "For a long time I had been striving to write music for the theatre, but the form in which I wanted it to be was so unusual that after several attempts I had given up on the idea.


Pelléas and Mélisande - Pelléas et M...

Barrie Kosky peers into the abyss of the human soul and tackles one of the most important Symbolist masterpieces in the operatic repertoire. Subtitles are available in English with the option of auto-translation into over other languages. A mysterious young woman weeps by a fountain in a forest over a lost crown. Prince Golaud stumbles upon her while out hunting, and events are set into motion. She will not tell Golaud anything more about who she is, but agrees to come with him. This romance blossoms in the second act.


Remember me. It is a bit like its characters, who evolve in another world, lost in the mists of a never ending dream, set to a hypnotic music that serves as a blurry mirror image of it. The composer faithfully follows the plot of the Symbolist play penned by Maurice Maeterlinck, which unfolds in a sensual and dreamlike atmosphere. The singing follows the rhythms of natural speech and symphonic interludes depict the opaque beauty of the imaginary kingdom of Allemonde. It offers five acts of continuous mystery and passion, infused with music that is not much more than a shimmering veil.

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