Magazine article Gramophone

Debussy: 'The Edgar Allan Poe Operas'

Magazine article Gramophone

Debussy: 'The Edgar Allan Poe Operas'

Article excerpt

Debussy                                 [DVD] [BR] 'The Edgar Allan Poe Operas'  La chute de la maison Usher William Dazeley bar                Roderick Usher Eugene Villanueva bar           Roderick's Friend Virgil Hartinger ten                       Doctor Lin Lin Fan sop                     Lady Madeline  Le diable dans le beffroi (a) Eugene Villanueva bar                 Burgomaster Lin Lin Fan sop                         Jeannette Michael Dries bass                     Bellringer Virgil Hartinger ten                         Jean 

(a) St Jacobi Gottingen Chamber Choir / Gottingen Symphony Orchestra / Christoph Mathias Mueller

Pan Classics (F) (F) PC10342 (89' * DDD * T/t) Recorded live at the Gottingen Stadthalle, December 10 & 11,2013

For the last 16 years of his fife, Debussy worked intermittently on a pair of one-act operas based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe, eventually intended as a double-bill for the New York Met, where Pelleas had been enthusiastically received in 1908. He began Le diable dans le beffroi in 1902 but abandoned it in 1912, leaving only a scenario and a few pages of sketches. By then he was also struggling with La chute de la maison Usher, the libretto of which gave him endless trouble. This time, however, he progressed further with the music, leaving roughly half the opera in short score at his death.

There have been several reconstructions of Usher since. Versions by Carolyn Abbate and Juan Allende-Blin appeared in 1977; the latter, replacing the unset sections of text with dialogue, was recorded by EMI in 1984. The work only edged itself into the repertory, however, in 2006, when Robert Orledge's completion was premiered in Bregenz. Orledge's version of Le diable dans le beffivi, meanwhile, based on Debussy's scenario and sketches but substantially his own composition, was given in Montreal in 2012 and the two operas were first performed together in Gottingen in 2013, where these recordings were made.

A satire on Puritan rigidity, Poe's The Devil in the Belfry is set in the imaginary Dutch village of Vondervotteimittiss, where the inhabitants, obsessed by setting their watches and clocks to the chimes of the local church, are thrown into confusion when the Devil materialises in its belfry and makes midday strike 13. Debussy, however, was no satirist. The opera replaces Poe's invective with whimsy, and the main narrative, dealing with the Devil's impact on the affair between the Burgomaster's daughter Jeannette and the Bellringer's son Jean, was his own invention. …

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