Pelléas et Mélisande

I went to see Scottish Opera’s production of Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande last night – as a fan of Debussy’s works for piano I was curious to hear what his operatic music was like.  This is Debussy’s only finished opera and is based on a play by Maurice Maeterlinck.  I was struck by how different this opera was to others I have been to (for example by Verdi, Puccini and Bizet): rather than a traditional aria and recitative based format, this was more like a continuous symphonic poem.  The music was constantly changing as each scene unfolded, often using word painting.  Debussy’s hallmarks of chromaticism and whole tone scales were all evident, and the style seemed really well suited to the mystery of this story.  Much of the music reminded me of film scores from the 40s and 50s.

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