In August 1903, Debussy wrote a scenario in one act and two tableaux based on Poe’s ‘tale of mystery and imagination’, The Devil in the Belfry (1839). He planned this as a double bill with The Fall of the House of Usher (also from 1839), selling the rights to their joint premieres to the New York Met in 1908.
This joint paper discusses the problems involved in producing a fast-moving, clear and dramatically viable professional libretto from what is, in effect, a discarded text, as well as those involved in setting this to music from the sketches Debussy left (but which included a complete Prelude to the first tableau from a ‘spot the composer’ competition in the journal Musica from January 1905).
The lecture is illustrated with extracts from the concert premiere on 28 January 2012 in Montreal with the Orchestre 21 conducted by Paolo Bellomio.
Robert Orledge became Professor of Music at Liverpool University in 1991, specialising as a historical musicologist in the way composers composed, and publishing numerous books and articles on Fauré, Debussy, Koechlin and Satie. Since taking early retirement in 2004, he has become a ‘creative musicologist’, concentrating on completing and orchestrating Debussy’s unfinished works. His completion of The Fall of the House of Usher was successfully premiered at the Bregenz Opera Festival in 2006, alongside the Chinese ballet No-ja-li in Los Angeles. His Nocturne pour violon et orchestre was broadcast from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in November 2011 with Isabelle Faust as soloist and Heinz Holliger conducting, and his most recent completion is Le Diable dans le beffroi. His volume of Debussy's orchestrations is due to be published in the Durand Oeuvres completes (V/11) later this year.
Stephen Wyatt gained his Ph.D. at Cambridge for his dissertation, The Victorian Extravaganza: 1830-1885. He spent a brief time as Lecturer in Drama at Glasgow University but since 1975 he has been a freelance writer for theatre, radio and television. He is the only writer to have won the Tinniswood Award for best radio drama script twice – for Memorials to the Missing in 2008 and Gerontius in 2011. His television works include Dr Who and Casualty. His theatre work has been seen everywhere from the Bubble Theatre’s touring tent to London’s West End. Productions in 2011 included Pick Yourself Up (Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch), The Standard Bearer (Stephanie Feury Theatre, Hollywood) and A Victorian Mikado (Krazy Kat Theatre national tour). He is also an experienced teacher and devised and taught the country’s first online radio drama course in conjunction with New Writing South and the University of Sussex. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Greenwich.