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Debussy and the Theatre by Robert Orledge

Debussy and the Theatre

By Robert Orledge

Debussy and the Theatre means, in effect, 'Debussy and Pellias et Milisande', the only stage work Debussy chose and completed himself without a definite production in view. The opera both established Debussy's mature style and reputation in the forefront of contemporary composers and changed the course of operatic history. But Pelleas was also largely responsible for Debussy's `compulsive inachievement' in the theatre. Before it he delayed completing other works so that Albert Carre's production at the Opera-Comique would be his theatre debut; and then its traumatic dress-rehearsal in April 19o2 left him reluctant to undergo another similar experience. This, coupled with his search for lyrical librettos or scenarios that could inspire the rhythm and colour that he regarded as vital ingredients in theatre music, resulted in a career littered with abandoned projects. The story of this most fascinating of love-hate relationships with the stage is told, as far as possible, in the composer's own words or from contemporary documents.

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