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Musical Symbolism in the Operas of Debussy and Bartok$
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Elliot Antokoletz

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365825

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365825.001.0001

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Pelléas et Mélisande

Pelléas et Mélisande

Musico‐Dramatic Turning Point: Intervallic Expansion as Symbol of Dramatic Tension and Change of Mood

Chapter:
(p.117) 6 Pelléas et Mélisande
Source:
Musical Symbolism in the Operas of Debussy and Bartok
Author(s):

Elliott Antokoletz (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365825.003.0006

This chapter looks at Act III, Scene I — one of the towers of the castle — and examines the idea of Mélisande's hair as object of manifold symbolic significance, the seduction of Pelléas in the magic of the night, and the threatening arrival of Golaud. Intervallic expansion serves as basis for dramatic tension and change of mood. This scene also expresses passion and sensuality in terms of diatonic and chromatic saturation, and represents Golaud and fate by the whole-tone-1 collection. The chapter also explores dramatic parallels and polarities. Increasing passion and impending fate are represented by chromatic (octatonic) compression of the whole-tone set by common tritone projections. This scene reveals the emergence of Pelléas, then Golaud. in the darkness, while Mélisande's dilemma is symbolized by heightened dramatic polarity and complex pitch-set interactions. Finally, Act III, Scene 2, the vaults of the castle; Scene 3, a terrace at the entrance of the vaults, dark and light; and Scene 4, before the castle, are examined. These all develop Golaud's expression of jealousy; based on a primary manifestation of the whole-tone cycles and their cells. The chapter further addresses the principle of polarity.

Keywords:   Mélisande's hair, seduction of Pelléas, Golaud, jealousy, polarity

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