“Pelleas et Melisande” is a French opera by Claude Debussy. The play is about a prince, Golaud, who found a young beautiful lady, Melisande. The prince got married to her and afterwards took her to his grandfather, Arkel, King of Allemonde. Melisande grows closer to Golaud’s half brother Pelleas. Golaud sets for an investigation into the relationship of the two using his own son. As Pelleas bids Melisande the last farewell, Golaud appears and kills him. Melisande gets wounded and later gives birth to an abnormally small girl. The opera has five acts and the music is provided by Claude Debussy. The libretto is borrowed from the symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck’s text. The opera is considered as the only one ever completed by Debussy, and it is a landmark in the 20th century music.
Debussy confessed of having this opera as the only one which is complete. Debussy was swayed by the Mendes’ promise of a performance at the Paris opera, by the money and reputation it would bring. Debussy’s life was a mess, as he confessed it to others, and only later he discovered the new plays of the symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck, which he recognized as exactly that form of drama that corresponded to the ideal requirements he had for a perfect libretto.
The plays of Maeterlinck were found to be tremendously famous with the Paris avant-garde in the 1890s. The writings of Maeterlinck were found to be anti-naturalistic in style as well as in content. They forsook external dramatic tension for an expression that was symbolic of the characters’ inner life. At first Debussy wanted to set the first play of Meterlinck, but was disappointed on finding it was already promised to Vincent d’Indy. He then shifted his interest to “Pelleas et Melisande”, which he had read in the past after its publication and before its performance. This work of Maeterlinck fascinated a lot of other musicians of that time. Debussy then found in the play the appropriate opera libretto — the one for which he had been looking. To Debussy, “Pelleas” gave the humanity he sought after, and he found that evocative language in the play that he could extend in music and in orchestral backcloth. Through his friend, Henri de Regnier, Debussy was able to gain permissions to work on the set of the play.
Claude Debussy is recognized as the impressionist style creator. His music did not form around one key or pitch. The young musician began his work on “Pelleas et Melisande” in 1893, starting by removing some scenes in the play to reduce the role of the women that were serving only to their one silent appearance that was in the last act. Debussy also reduced the number of the elaborate descriptions that Maeterlinck was so fond of. Debussy ensured that he worked on each act separately. The short score of “Pelleas et Melisande” was completed in August 1895. The opera’s full score was only given out after the Opera Comique had accepted it in 1898, paving the way for revisions, vocal score as well as addition of full orchestration. The full version of the opera went in rehearsals only in January 1902.
Imperialism is considered to be the creation and maintenance of a suppressive economic, cultural and territorial relationship of some countries to others. Imperialism was at its optimum level as the nations were fighting over the new findings. Most of the music then was concentrating on gaining the new lands that were exploited and only few of the writers paid their attention to operas. Thus, the Imperialism made the attention to music decline, which is evidenced by the length of time taken to acknowledge the short opera Debussy first wrote.
Despite having the rough times in the past, Debussy took his interests into the play coming up with a satisfying opera, which was first played in 1902 inParis. The opera has its soothing taste of a young girl meeting a young man, all through giving it a beautiful taste of music.