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Soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) was a powerful influence on French operatic style and performance practice in the early twentieth century through her association with composers Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Jules Massenet (1842-1912). Scottish-born Garden created the leading roles in both Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande and Massenet's Chérubin, established a successful operatic career in both France and America, and was largely responsible for the introduction of contemporary French opera to American audiences. To support these statements, I have examined the two operatic roles with which Mary Garden was chiefly associated—Debussy's Mélisande and Massenet's Chérubin. In spite of the different circumstances in which Miss Garden was chosen to premiere the title roles of these two operas (Debussy having personally chosen her to create the role after the score to Pelléas et Mélisande had already been composed and Massenet choosing to create Chérubin specifically for her), one may confidently assume that her portrayals of these characters were closest to the original intentions of the composers. In support of this argument, the dramatic and musical demands of the two roles were analyzed, specific quotes from Debussy, Massenet and pertinent critical reviews of Garden's performances were considered, and the breadth of Miss Garden's influence and artistry were explored to demonstrate why Garden was the ideal choice for both roles. This treatise explores her strengths and attributes both as a singer and as an actress.
Melisande, Cherubin, Jules Massenet, Mary Garden, Claude Debussy, singing actress, Andre Messager, Albert Carre, Oscar Hammerstein
Date of Defense
March 27, 2008.
A Treatise submitted to the Department of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Douglas Fisher, Professor Directing Treatise; Jeffery Kite-Powell, Outside Committee Member; Stanford Olsen, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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