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



This first comprehensive guide to Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande was written by the leading authorities on French music of the period. As a background to the opera, the authors, together with David Grayson, discuss various aspects of the play. They consider its literary roots, trace its genesis and composition, and illuminate Debussy's compositional strategies. A detailed synopsis of Debussy's musical response to the text forms a central chapter. This is followed by an examination of the symbols and musical motives employed by Debussy as well as an analysis of his themes. The book concludes with a detailed bibliography and a discography.

Author Notes

Roger Nichols is a writer & broadcaster, specializing in French music of the nineteenth & twentieth centuries. He is the author of "Ravel Remembered" (Faber, 2000) & "Conversations with Madeleine Milhaud" (Faber, 1996).

(Bowker Author Biography)

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