Cover image for Claude Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande
Claude Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande
Nichols, Roger.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
viii, 209 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.D28 N48 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The first comprehensive guide to Pellas et Mlisande, Debussy's only completed opera, this book is written by three of the leading authorities on French music of the period. As a background to the opera Richard Langham Smith discusses the play, by the Belgian dramatist Maeterlinck, and considers its literary roots. David Grayson then traces the genesis and composition of the opera, examining also the sketches and rejected versions in order to illuminate Debussy's compositional strategies. A detailed synopsis by Roger Nichols, which considers carefully Debussy's musical response to the text, forms a central chapter. The book then moves on to consider more detailed aspects of the style and language of the opera. The relationship between symbols and musical motives forms the basis of a chapter by Richard Langham Smith, and a subsequent chapter by him considers the themes of darkness and light and the key-schemes used to portray them. Two chapters by Roger Nichols on the various performances since 1902 and on the ideas of interpreters and commentators complete the text. The book concludes with a detailed bibliography and a discography.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This, the nineteenth of the "Cambridge Opera Handbooks," well serves the series purpose: to examine individual operas historically, analytically, and interpretatively and to present material in a manner accessible to the broadly educated amateur as well as to the student or scholar. What distinguishes these handbooks from the more usual opera companion is their rigorous scholarly approach. Essays on the play, the playwright and his "English connection," the plot, musical motives and symbols, dark and light symbolism, and a performance history by British musicologists Nichols (Debussy, CH, Feb '74) and Smith are supplemented by David A. Grayson (University of Illinois at Urbana--Champaign) with an excellent summary of his research on the genesis and sources of the opera. A remarkable amount of information based on the most recent available scholarship is included. There are English translations of French quotes in the body of text. Excellent endnotes. Select bibliography. Discography by Malcolm Walker. Illustrations include generous musical examples. Suitable for advanced undergraduates; useful to faculty; of interest to general readers. M. S. Roy Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

1 The play and its playwright Richard Langham Smith
2 The opera: genesis and sources David A. Grayson
3 Synopsis Roger Nichols
4 Motives and symbols Richard Langham Smith
5 Tonalities of darkness and light Richard Langham Smith
6 PellTas in performance I - a history Roger Nichols
7 PellTas in performance II - ideals and engimas Roger Nichols
Select bibliography
Discography Malcolm Walker