Composer Profile: Claude Debussy, The Face of French Impressionism

By David Salazar

Claude Debussy, born on August 22, 1862, is one of France’s greatest composer.

For many, he is the face of the impressionist movement, even though he himself rejected the term.

Debussy was not born into wealth or music, but he had the gift as early as the age of 10, entering the Conservatoire de Paris. He studied music there before eventually turning to the piano.

He developed his craft and style for the first few decades of his life, eventually finding international fame at the age of 40 when he completed his one and only opera (more on that later).

Debussy rejected many of the conventions of musical form that came before him. He was very much against the Wagnerian influence on music and outright rejected the classical symphony as an outdated and hence obsolete form.

Unfortunately, he didn’t live all that long, dying of cancer at the age of 55. His legacy is a massive one, his harmonic style influencing many composers thereafter.

Major Works 

Debussy created a number of great orchestral and piano masterworks throughout his career. But in the world of opera, his reputation is tied to one work – “Pelléas et Mélisande.” And what a work it is.

The five-act masterpiece is renowned for its unique structure, connecting scenes in a manner that is whimsical and rhapsodic. The opera itself is void of arias and set pieces, the work feeling more like a conglomeration between sung and recited texted. 

Read More on Debussy

Other Operas that Never Came To Be

Read More on Pelléas et Mélisande

Watch and Listen

Take a gander at “Pelléas et Mélisande.” This rendition is led by legendary French conductor Pierre Boulez.


Opera Wiki