Personalities | Maurice Maeterlinck | Turn of the Century | Opera
Maeterlinck is best known for his play Pelléas et Mélisande set verbatim but with cuts by Debussy. It has become one of the pinnacles of French opera. Maeterlinck was one of the main founders of symbolist theatre. Thoroughly Belgian in his dark mysticism, he took Paris by storm in the early 1890s and was suddenly proclaimed the ‘Belgian Shakespeare’ after the single matinee of Pelléas in Paris. An admirer of the English Pre-Raphaelites, his symbolism operates at all levels: in the structure of the early plays, in their development and in their local symbols. Much of it is Christian: doves, rings, water etc. Some of it is Poeian: stagnant water, clocks chiming. Other operas were also based on his plays, most notably Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-bleu, the very play in which we learn that Mélisande was once a wife of Bluebeard.
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