Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande eBook

Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 60 pages of information about Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande.
scale with F-sharp.  Observe the use of the same mode in the introductory measures, and elsewhere, of his setting of Verlaine’s Il pleure dans mon coeur (1889), the second of the “Ariettes.”  Five years later, in Pelleas et Melisande, the trait is omnipresent—­too extensive and obvious, indeed, to require detailed indication.  One might point out, at random, the derivation from the seventh of the ecclesiastical modes (the Mixolydian) of the phrase in the accompaniment to Arkel’s words in the final scene, “L’ame humaine aime a s’en aller seule;” or the relationship between the opening measures of the orchestral introduction to the drama and the first of the “authentic” modes, the Dorian; or between the same mode (corresponding to the D-minor scale without accidentals) and Melisande’s song at the tower window at the beginning of the third act.

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It remains only to be said, by way of conclusion to this brief survey, that, for those who are disposed to open their sensibilities to the appeal of this music, its high and haunting beauty must exert an increasing sway over the heart and the imagination.  It is making no excessive or invidious claim for it to assert that, after one has truly savored its quality, other music, transcendent though it may demonstrably be, seems a little coarse-fibred, a little otiose, a little—­as Jules Laforgue might have said—­quotidienne.  But, however it may come to be ranked, there are few, I think, who will not recognize here an accent that is personal and unique, a peculiar ecstasy, a pervading and influential magic.




Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelleas et Melisande, published in 1892, stands fifth in the chronological order of his dramatic works.  It was preceded by La Princesse Maleine (1889); L’Intruse, Les Aveugles (1890); and Les sept Princesses (1891).  Since its appearance Maeterlinck has published these plays:  Alladine et Palomides; Interieur; La Mort de Tintagiles:  Trois petits drames pour Marionnettes (1894); Aglavaine et Selysette (1896); Ariane et Barbe-Bleue; Soeur Beatrice (1901); Monna Vanna (1902); Joyzelle (1903). Pelleas et Melisande, dedicated to Octave Mirbeau “in token of deep friendship, admiration, and gratitude,” was first performed at the Bouffes-Parisiens, Paris, on May 17, 1893, with this cast:  Pelleas, Mlle. Marie Aubry; Melisande, Mlle. Meuris; Arkel, Emile Raymond; Golaud, Lugne-Poe; Genevieve, Mme. Camee; Le petit Yniold, Georgette Loyer.

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Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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