Debussy's Ideal Pelléas and the Limits of Authorial Intent

David Grayson

in Rethinking Debussy

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755639
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894932 | DOI:
Debussy's Ideal Pelléas and the Limits of Authorial Intent

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The role of Pelléas in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande is problematic, both vocally and dramatically. André Messager, the conductor at the première, described the challenge of its tessitura: “The part is too high for a baritone and too low for a tenor.” At the première the role was sung by a high baritone (a baryton Martin) who, under the composer's supervision, lowered the tessitura and documented the changes in his personal score. Debussy considered making Pelléas a trouser role and also prepared a tenor version of the part (involving more than six hundred pitch changes), which remained unpublished, although his publisher made it available to singers upon request. Some of these changes are unrelated to tessitura adjustments and thus may represent “lost” revisions. The dramatic significance of these different versions of the role and the voice types that they represent (baritone, tenor, and soprano) form the focus of this chapter.

Keywords: Debussy; Pelléas et Mélisande; revisions; role of Pelléas; tenor version; tessitura

Chapter.  10184 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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