Pelléas and Mélisande Background

Pelléas and Mélisande Background

Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas and Mélisande was not only was instrumental in bringing the writer a Nobel Prize, but is regarded as both his own individual magnum open and the singular defining masterwork in the history of Symbolist drama. Heavily dependent upon fairy tales as an influence, Pelléas and Mélisande spans five acts to relate its narrative of a love triangle involving one wife and two brothers.

Controversial when it first premiered in 1893, the play also prove immediately popular. Especially with musicians. Among the composers inspired by the work of Maeterlinck are some of the most famous names in serious music, ranging in diversity of approach from Arnold Schoenberg to Jean Sibelius. It was the genius Claude Debussy who most successfully tapped into the operatic elements already built into the story by Maeterlinck. In fact, the only opera that Debussy ever completed is based on this play and his final product also stands as towering artistic accomplishment.

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