Personalities | Paul Dukas | Modern Era | Opera
A contemporary of Debussy and Ravel who joined the French Wagnerian movement, Dukas is primarily known for his orchestral fantasy L’apprenti sorcier (‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, 1897), memorably featured in Disney’s animated feature Fantasia. He was a perfectionist who spent years rewriting his partially written works. Two of Dukas’ operas remained unfinished: the Wagner-inspired Horn et Riemenhild (1892) and L’arbre de science (1899), a lyric drama in four acts. His only complete opera was Ariane et Barbe-bleue (‘Ariane and Bluebeard’, 1908), based on Maurice Maeterlinck’s play and featuring Maeterlinck’s libretto, yet Dukas was only granted permission to set the text to music on the condition that Georgette Leblanc (Dukas’ long-term companion) could sing the role of Ariane. He complied, and the work received its first performance at the Opéra-Comique in 1907. Borrowing from the chromaticism of Wagner and the use of the pentatonic scale – much employed by Debussy – Ariane et Barbe-bleue is a mixture of traditional grand opéra and the natural declamation of French mélodie. In later years, as a professor of music at the Paris Conservatoire, Dukas passed his knowledge on to composers such as Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909) and Olivier Messiaen (1908–92).
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