Rodrigue et Chimène

By Devoto, Mark | Notes, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Rodrigue et Chimène


Devoto, Mark, Notes


Claude Debussy. Rodrigue et Chimène. Édition de Richard Langham Smith. (oeuvres complètes, ser. 6: oeuvres lyriques, vol. 1.) (Musica Gallica.) Paris: Durand, c2003. [Gen. pref. in Fr., Eng., p. ix; foreword, p. xi-xxx; selective bibliography, p. xxxi; characters, libretto, p. xxxii-lxxi; score, 250 p.; abbrevs., p. 252; crit. notes, p. 253-95; appendices, p. 297-310; facsims., p. 311-31 Cloth. ISMN M-044-00022-7; D. & F. 15510. euro251.]

Like Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy considered the problems of opera throughout his career, and in his middle years composed a single masterpiece of the genre. The Debussy oeuvres complètes, now about half finished, features among its latest volumes the most important of Debussy's previously unpublished works, the unfinished opera Rodrigue et Chimène, to a libretto by Catulle Mendès (1841-1909) based on the Spanish romance of El Cid. Except for Pelléas et Mélisande (1893-1902), the one opera that Debussy did complete out of several planned or partly sketched, Rodrigue et Chimène is Debussy's longest work, and it represents the principal focus of his compositional effort during three critical years at the start of the 189Os. Richard Langham Smith's long-awaited and excellent edition for the oeuvres complètes is certain to be an important resource for all who look for greater understanding of Debussy's evolving style and aesthetic.

Debussy's two dispiriting years in 1885 and 1886 as a Prix de Rome laureate, though they generated a number of unfinished attempts, did not result in any envois that satisfied either his home committee or the composer himself. After his return to Paris in 1887, however, Debussy began to be an independent composer, and by 1890, when he first decided to compose Rodrigue et Chimène, he had completed three significant large-scale works-the Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire-, the Fantaisie toi' piano and orchestra, and the cantata La damoiselle élue-which mark his first emergence as a major composer. During the next two years, as he worked on the opera, Debussy also dealt with problems of text setting in some of his best songs, including the Trois mélodies and the first series of Fêtes galantes on texts by Paul Verlaine, and the Proses lyriques on his own poems. Yet despite his efforts, Rodrigue et Chimène became an increasing frustration for Debussy, and recognizing in 1893 that he could no longer accommodate Mendès's libretto to his own evolving direction as a composer, Debussy abandoned the opera after composing nearly all of three acts. Thus unburdened, like six years before, Debussy responded with a remarkable outburst of new works that revealed him to a small but understanding public as the most visionary and progressive composer of his time: the String Quartet of 1893. the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune of 1894. and especially the first sketches for Pelléas et Mélisande, which might well have been the deciding factor in Debussy's abandonment of Rodrigue et Chimène. Thus it is especially welcome to have in print for the first time the one previously missing major work that links Debussy's first and second creative periods and illuminates convincingly the continuity of his maturation.

The foreword to the new edition explains the complicated history of the libretto of Rodrigue et Chimène. Mendès, a successful poet and novelist and a founder of the Revue wagnenenne, was a passionate admirer of Richard Wagner's music and a personal friend of Wagner himself, who in turn had an affaire du coeur with Mendès's wife, the writer Judith Gautier. In 1883, Mendès wrote a workable but dramatically insipid libretto for Emmanuel Chabrier's Tristanesque opera Gwendoline, (1885). Mendès had announced as early as 1878 that he was writing a libretto to be entitled Le Cid, but did not name a chosen composer, who in any case would not have been the sixteen-year-old Debussy. Other librettists were competing for attention on the same popular subject, and Mendès essentially bowed out of the race when it became known that Jules Massenet would compose a Cid opera based on Corneille's play. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rodrigue et Chimène
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.