Pelléas et Mélisande

Elliott Antokoletz

in Musical Symbolism in the Operas of Debussy and Bartok

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195365825
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868865 | DOI:
Pelléas et Mélisande

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This chapter first looks at End of Act, the anticipation of meeting of Pelléas and Médlisande. Act II, Scene 1 is then examined based on the “Pelléas” and “Well” Motifs. The chapter explores the transformational function of the dominant-ninth chord, instrumental timbre as signifier, the power of the unconscious, and music as message encoder of the unconscious. Next Act II, Scenes I and 2 are considered in terms of the consequences of the lost ring. The chapter explores the varied repetition and development of motifs in transformation from pentatonic to whole-tone spheres. After that Act II, Scene 2, a room in the castle, is examined. The chapter discusses Golaud, Mélisande, the ring, and transformation of the “Pelléas” motif, and points to the “circle of light” as a symbol of fate. Next Act II, Scene 2, which deals with events leading to Golaud's anger and his demand that Mélisande search for the ring is considered. The chapter then goes on to Act II, Scene 3 — before a dark grotto — and discusses a feigned search for the ring. The principle of “expressive doubling” is studied as a means of signifying dualistic human modes of world perception.

Keywords: instrumental timbre; signifier; message encoder; lost ring; circle of light; symbol of fate; Golaud's anger; dark grotto; expressive doubling; dualistic human modes

Chapter.  18318 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Opera

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