The listener may be forgiven for not knowing that any Debussy "Edgar Allan Poe Operas" existed, for neither of the works recorded here was ever completed. Moreover, and you don't learn this unless you read the notes or have investigated for yourself, one of them was hardly begun. After the success of Pelléas et Mélisande in New York, Debussy was encouraged to adapt a pair of Poe's short stories for a new American production. Debussy needed little encouragement and quickly produced a pair of scenarios, but other projects intervened, and the operas were never finished. The more complete one is La chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher), for which there are substantial sketches and several full realizations including the one here by "creative musicologist" Robert Orledge. Le diable dans le beffroi is almost entirely Orledge's work, and he seems to have diverged substantially from what Debussy planned (he has solo voices where Debussy apparently intended a choral work). This puts the whole project here firmly in the speculative realm, especially inasmuch as the operas seem to have been planned as a kind of pair, with Le diable dans le beffroi as the comic counterpart to the familiar moody tale of the House of Usher. But the music, especially in the Usher work (the patchwork of parody and quotation Orledge puts together for Le diable makes the question of whether it's Debussyan less relevant), sounds like Debussy, and although the graphics credit only the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester under Christoph-Matias Mueller, there are some fine solo singers here, most of all William Dazeley as Roderick Usher. Sample the climactic final tracks of this opera for the effect. Those interested in how Debussy saw Poe, as manifested in his adaptations, will be pleased to find complete texts in English, French, and German in the booklet (Debussy worked from Baudelaire's translations). Recommended for Debussy buffs.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|La Chute de la Maison Usher|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Le Diable dans le Beffroi|