Debussy's Mélisande

Debussy's Mélisande

The Lives of Georgette Leblanc, Mary Garden and Maggie Teyte

Gillian Opstad

Personal eBook

Boydell Press



The colourful lives of the three divas who made Debussy's Mélisande their own.
Debussy's Mélisande examines the colourful lives of Georgette Leblanc, Mary Garden and Maggie Teyte, and their involvement with Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, illustrating the prejudices and difficulties women singers of their era faced. The three women presented here were not only remarkable for the resilience and initiative they had to develop, but also for their willingness to adapt themselves to the opportunities offered by the emerging technologies of recording, radio and film. It is also the story of the background to the opera's creation, and the frequently stormy relationships between the author of the original play (Maeterlinck), the composer, director, conductor and performers. This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of Debussy, opera, French music and theatre, Maeterlinck, and those interested in women's studies and biography.

Gillian Opstad read Modern Languages at Somerville College, Oxford after which she taught for a number of years in Buckinghamshire and Bristol. She has been actively involved with music both at university and since. This, her first book, is a result of her particular interest in French music, especially that of Debussy.


38 black and white illustrations
392 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Personal eBook, 9781782042549, May 2009
Hardback, 9781843834595, May 2009
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Pelléas et Mélisande. From Play to Opera
Georgette Leblanc (1869-1894)
Georgette Leblanc meets Maurice Maeterlinck (1895-1898)
The Row (1898-1902)
Mary Garden (1874-1900)
Mary Garden's Breakthrough (1900-1902)
Preparations for Performance of Pelléas et Mélisande
First Performance and Reactions
Mary Garden Reaps Success (1902-1907)
Return of Georgette Leblanc (1902-1907)
Pelléas et Mélisande at Saint-Wandrille
Maggie Teyte. Her Background (1888-1902)
Maggie Teyte's Path to Mélisande (1903-1908)
Mary Garden in America (1907-1911)
Maggie Teyte's Triumphs and Disappointments (1908-1930)
Georgette Leblanc's Rise and Fall (1911-1919)
Mary Garden becomes Director (1912-1931)
Georgette Leblanc after Maeterlinck (1919-1931)
Maggie Teyte's Fresh Start (1930-1945)
Georgette Leblanc Falls Ill (1931-1941)
Mary Garden's Retirement (1931-1967)
Maggie Teyte after the War (1945-1976)
Select Bibliography


Georgette Leblanc, Mary Garden, and Maggie Teyte...brought to life Mélisande, the mysterious princess, and lived full lives themselves. And, thanks to Opstad's work, they come to life for readers in the book Debussy's Mélisande. FRENCH REVIEW

Opstad succeeds (...) in conveying the tumult of theatrical life in the first half of the twentieth century, on both sides of the Atlantic, and we hear clearly the babble of competing egos, the insidious murmur of gossip, and the familiar strains of prejudice. MUSIC & LETTERS

Debussy's Mélisande provides a well-researched presentation of the lives of Georgette Leblanc, Mary Garden and Maggie Teyte (...) the personalities (...) seem to come to life and there is a real link between the three singers because of the circumstances surrounding the role of Mélisande. THE OSCHOLARS

This eloquent book.intelligently organised.(and) full of fascinating incidents. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (Robert Orledge)
Engaging and wonderfully written. (...) Gives the reader insights into not only the evolution of the opera and the important figures involved in its production but also the intrigue with developing technology of the day, such as radio, film, and audio recordings. Recommended. CHOICE

The interweaving of each singer's story makes for a fascinating read...Opstad manages the complex weave with ease...There are plenty of insights into what each singer brought to this famous role in terms of vocal, dramatic and visual qualities...there is an excellent selection of photographs. CLASSICAL MUSIC (Editor's Choice)

As someone who has been puzzling over what this work "means" for some 50 years, I learnt a lot from this book and shall be returning to it regularly. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE (Roger Nichols)

Opstad's book will be fascinating for anyone interested in early twentieth century opera or the life and music of Debussy...(she) has uncovered many little-known facts about all the personalities involved. LITERARY REVIEW

A brilliant success...Opstad's research is wide-ranging and exemplary. She tells a fascinating, moving and complex story superbly. Not least, her footnotes, handily on each relevant page, are models of clarity and concision. And her text is refreshingly free of the sort of musicological mumbo-jumbo that disfigures so many new books on interesting musical matters. WWW.OPERA-BRITANNIA.COM