Pelleas And Melisande


General informations

Pelleas and Melisande was made into an opera by Debussy and both Faure and Sibeleus wrote incidental music for this play, so it is interesting to read the play that inspired these great composers. Included in the volume are two other plays: Allardine and Palomides and House. ExcerptThanks to Maeterlinck's characters, to his highly precise and very vague language, so cruel and so apt, Debussy was able to realise the drama of his d.

  • Composer:Claude Debussy
  • Librettist:Maurice Maeterlinck
  • Creation year:1902
  • Creation place:France
  • Acts number:5
  • Original language:French
  • Opera House of original production:Théâtre impérial de l’Opéra de Paris

Work description

Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande is a unique, timeless work. It is a bit like its characters, who evolve in another world, lost in the mists of a never ending dream, set to a hypnotic music that serves as a blurry mirror image of it. When he wrote it, Debussy asserted it is 'an opera after Wagner, not inspired by Wagner”. The composer faithfully follows the plot of the Symbolist play penned by Maurice Maeterlinck, which unfolds in a sensual and dreamlike atmosphere. The singing follows the rhythms of natural speech and symphonic interludes depict the opaque beauty of the imaginary kingdom of Allemonde. It offers five acts of continuous mystery and passion, infused with music that is not much more than a shimmering veil.


The story takes place in the imaginary kingdom of Allemonde, governed by the aged King Arkel. After meeting Mélisande, a fragile and mysterious creature, while hunting in the forest, Prince Golaud marries her without learning anything about her and then presents Mélisande to his half brother Pelléas. A secret bond forms between the it love? Golaud starts to spy on Pelléas and Mélisande. First, he tells his half brother to stay away from his wife, but then becomes more threatening as he is devoured by fear and jealousy. Pelléas and Mélisande end up confessing their love for each other. As they kiss, Golaud surprises them and kills Pelléas with his sword as Mélisande escapes. In the presence of Arkel and Golaud, who is filled with remorse, the mysterious Mélisande gradually dies of an unidentified affliction. Golaud never finds out the truth about her relationship with Pelléas.

Act 1

While hunting in the forest, Prince Golaud encounters the mysterious Mélisande, a fragile and frightened girl. He soon marries Mélisande without learning anything more about her.

Act 2

Pelléas and Mélisande are heading to the Blind Men's Well. Mélisande palys with the ring offered by Golaud and loses it in the water. At the same time, Golaud falls from his horse. He is wounded. Golaud notices the wedding ring is missing. Golaud orders her to go and search for it. Pelléas will go with her in a frightening place where the shadow of death is lingering.

Act 3

In old King Arkel's castle, Golaud encounters his half brother Pelléas. Mélisande and Pelléas are instantly attracted to each other. Is this a childish game? Or the prelude to love? On his guard, Golaud overhears a conversation between Pelléas and Mélisande, who spend long hours together. In a somewhat threatening tone, Golaud tells Pelléas to stay away from Mélisande, who is expecting. As she combs her long hair, Mélisande sings an old song.

Excerpt: « Mes longs cheveux descendent »

Golaud’s jealousy becomes dangerously obsessive. He questions his young son, Yniold, on Pelléas and Mélisande’s relationship. What do they do when he is not around? Are they seeing each other? Do they talk? And what do they say? Golaud uses his son to spy on Mélisande’s room and observe what she and Pélleas are doing. But Yniold panics when Golaud questions him more aggressively.

Act 4

Golaud’s jealousy and anger get the better of him. As Pelléas says goodbye to Mélisande, the two finally confess their love for each other and kiss. But Golaud arrives on the scene and kills his brother with his sword. Mélisande escapes.

Act 5

While Mélisande has not been injured, she starts to gradually perish. Golaud, who is filled with remorse, wants to talk about what really happened between her and Pelléas. He begs her to tell the truth and gets angry with her when she is silent or gives meaningless answers. Did she commit adultery with Pélleas? Golaud - or anyone else for that matter – will ever know. Mélisande dies without answering him.

< Pelléas and Melisande
Pelléas and Melisande (1907)
Claude Debussy, Maurice Maeterlinck, translated byCharles Alfred Byrne
Act I

Pelleas and Melisande



Melisande discovered on the edge of a fountain.—Enter Golaud.

I shall not be able to leave this forest again.—God knows how far this beast has led me. Yet I thought I had wounded it unto death; and here are traces of blood. But now, I have lost sight of it. I fear that I am lost myself—and my dogs no longer find me.—I shall retrace my steps…—I hear weeping… Oh, oh, what is it there by the water?… A little girl who weeps near the water? (He coughs.)—She does not hear me. I do not see her face. (He goes near and touches Melisande on the shoulder.) Why dost thou ween? (Melisande rises, trembles and wants to fly.)—Do not fear. You have nothing to be afraid of. Why do you weep here all alone?


Do not touch me! do not touch me!

Have no fear… I will do you no… Oh, you are beautiful!


Do not touch me! Do not touch me! or I shall throw myself in the water…

I do not touch you… See, I'll stay here, against the tree. Have no fear. Has any one hurt you?


Oh, yes, yes, yes!


Who has done you harm?

All, all!


What harm has been done to you?

I will not say it. I cannot say it.


Pelleas And Melisande

Come; do not weep thus. Whence come you?

I escaped, escaped, escaped!


Yes; but from where did you escape?

I am lost… lost here. I am not from here… I was not born there…


Where are you from? Where were you born?

Oh, oh! far from here… far… far…


Pelleas And Melisande

What sparkles thus at the bottom of the water?

Why, where?—Oh, it is the crown that he gave me. It fell through my weeping.


A crown? Who gave you a crown?—I will try to get it…

No, no; I do not want it any more. I do not want it. I prefer to die at once…


I could recover it easily. The water is not very deep.

I do not want it any more. If you recover it, I shall throw myself in its place!…


No, no; I shall leave it there. Yet one could get it very easily. It appears very handsome.—Is it long since you fled?

Yes, yes… who are you?


I am Prince Golaud—grandson of King Arkel, the old King of Allemond.

Oh! you already have grey hair.


Yes, a few, here, by the temples.

And the beard too… Why do you look at me in that way?


I look at your eyes.—You never close our eyes?

Yes, I do. I close them at night.


Why do you wear such a look of surprise?

You are a giant.


I am a man like any other…

Why did you come here?


I do not know, myself. I was hunting in the forest. I followed a boar. I missed my way.—You look very young. How old are you?

I begin to feel cold…


Will you come with me?

No, no: I remain here…


You cannot remain alone. You cannot remain here all night… What is your name?



You cannot remain here, Melisande Come with me…

I stay here…


You will be afraid, all alone. One does not know what there is here… all night… all alone, it is not possible. Melisande, come, give me your hand…

Oh! do not touch me…


Do not cry out… I will not touch you. But come with me. The night is very dark and very cold. Come with me…

Where are you going?


I do not know… I am lost also.


(A Room in the Castle. ArkelandGenevievediscovered).

Here is what he has written to his brother, Pelléas: 'One evening, I found her all in tears on the rim of a fountain, in the forest where I had lost myself. I know not her age, nor whom she is, nor whence she comes and I do not dare question her, for she must have had a great fright, and when I ask her what had happened to her, she weeps all at once like a child and sobs so deeply that one is afraid. It is now six months that I married her and I know no more than the day of our meeting. In the meantime, my dear Pelléas, you that I love more than a brother, even though we were not born of the same father; in the meantime, prepare my return. I know that my mother will willingly forgive me. But I fear Arkel, spite of all his goodness, for I deceived, by this strange marriage, all his political projects, and I fear that the beauty of Mélisande will not excuse in his eyes, so wise, my folly. If, nevertheless, he consents to receive her as he would receive his own daughter, the third evening that follows this letter, light a lamp at the summit of the tower that looks on the sea. I shall perceive it from the bridge of our ship: if not, I shall go farther and shall never return'… What do vou say of it?


I say nothing of it. It may appear strange to us, for we never see but the reverse of destinies… He had always followed my advice until this; I had thought to make him happy in sending him to ask for the hand of the Princess Ursula… He could not remain alone, and since the death of his wife he was sad in being alone; and this marriage was to put an end to long wars and to some ugly hatreds… He would not have it so: Let it be as he wishes. I have never put myself at cross purposes with a destiny: and he knows his future better than me. There, perhaps, happen no useless events…

He has always been so prudent, so serious and so firm. Since the death of his wife he only lived for his son, the little Yniold. He has forgotten everything.—What shall we do?

(Enter Pelléas.)

Who enters there?


It is Pelléas. He has wept.

Is it you, Pelléas?—Come a little nearer, that I may see you in the light…


Grandfather, I received, at the same time as the letter from my brother, another letter; a letter from my friend Marcellus. He is about to die and he calls me.

He says he knows exactly the day that death must come. He tells me that I can arrive before it if I please, but that there is no more time to lose.

And yet it is needful to wait awhile. We do not know what the return of your brother prepares for us. And besides is not your father here, just above us, sicker, perhaps, than your friend. Could you choose between the father and the friend?

(He leaves).

Be careful to light the lamp from to-night on. Pelléas.

(They go out separately.)

(In front of the Castle. EnterGenevieveandMelisande.


It is dark in the gardens. And what forests, what forests around the palaces!…

Yes; it astonished me too when I came here, and it astonishes everybody. There are places where one never sees the sun. But one is soon used to it. It is a long time, it is a long time… It is nearly forty years that I live here…Look on the other side and you will have the light of the sea…


I hear a noise beneath us…

Yes; it is someone coming up to us… Ah! it is Pelléas… He seems still tired from having waited for you so long…


He has not seen us.

I think he has seen us, but he does not know what he should do… Pelléas, Pelléas, is it you?


Yes. I was coming from the side of the sea…

We also; we were looking for light. Here, it is a little clearer than elsewhere. And yet the sea is dark.

Pelleas And Melisande Story


We shall have a storm to-night. There is one every night since some time… and yet it is so calm this evening… One would embark without knowing it and never come back.

Something leaves the port.


It must be a large ship. The lights are very high, we will see it by and by, when it enters the ray of light.

I do not know if we will see it. there is still a mist on the sea.


It looks as if the mist were slowly rising.

Yes; I perceive, over there, a little light I had not seen.


It is a beacon; there are others that we do not yet see.

The vessel is in the light. It is already very far…


It is going away with all sails set.

It is the ship that brought me here. It has great sails. I recognize it by its sails.


Pelleas And Melisande

There will be a bad sea to-night.

Why does it go away to-night? One hardly sees it any more. It will perhaps be wrecked.


Pelleas And Melisande Youtube

Night is falling very fast…


It is time to go within. Pelléas, show the way to Melisande. I must eo and see, for a moment, the little Yniold.


One no longer sees anything on the sea…

Pelleas And Melisande Pdf

I see other lights.


It is the other beacons… Do you hear the sea? It is the wind that is rising. Let us get down this way. Will you give me your hand?

See. see. I have my hands full of flowers.


I will support you by your arm; the way is steep and it is very dark. I go away perhaps to-morrow.

Pelleas Et Melisande Libretto

Oh!… Why do you go away?

(They leave.)

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