Debussy's Ideal Pelléas and the Limits of Authorial Intent

David Grayson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


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role and also prepared a tenor version of the part (involving more than six hundred pitch changes), which remained unpublished, although his publisher made it available to singers upon request.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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRethinking Debussy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199894932
ISBN (Print)9780199755639
StatePublished - May 1 2011


  • Debussy
  • Pelléas et mélisande
  • Revisions
  • Role of Pelléas
  • Tenor version
  • Tessitura


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