Metropolitan Opera 2018-19 Preview: A Brief Historical Survey of ‘Pelléas Et Mélisande’

By David Salazar

This week, Debussy’s masterwork “Pelléas et Mélisande” returns to the Metropolitan Opera stage for the first time since 2011.

The opera will feature Paul Appleby and Isabel Leonard in the title roles respectively. Appleby will be the 15th Pelléas in Met history while Leonard will be the 17th singer to inhabit the role of his doomed lover Mélisande.

Here is a historical survey of the opera at the Met.

First Performers

Edward Johnson and Lucrezia Bori were the first two interpreters of the role at the Met. They performed at the Met premiere on March 21, 1925, and would go on to appear in a whopping 32 performances together thereafter. Their final go at the Debussy opera was on March 20, 1935, one day short of 10 years after the first performance.

The opera would return to the repertory four years later on March 7, 1940, with Helen Jepson and Georges Cathelat in the title roles. Jepson would only get four performances of the role while Cathelat would appear in two. Jepson’s other partner would be Raoul Jobin who would sing a total of three performances of the role between 1940 and 1944.

Bidú Sayão and Martial Singher would each take on the opera eight times between 1944 and 1945 with seven performances together; Jarmila Novotna would get one showcase during the run, as would Jobin.


In 1949, Jacques Jansen and Elen Dosia would step in for two performances of the lovers.

In 1953, Theodor Uppman would become the next major Pelléas at the Met, taking on 14 straight performances of the opera through 1962. He would be paired with Nadine Connor (four performances), Anna Moffo (six performances), and Victoria de Los Angeles (eight performances). It was also during this time that Nicolai Gedda took on the title role for three shows.

In 1972, Judith Blegen and Barry McDaniel would appear in seven performances together and in 1977, it would fall on Teresa Stratas and Raymond Gibbs to essay eight performances together.

Recent History

Five performances would take place in 1983, both featuring Dale Duesing and Jeannette Pilou before another six in 1988 featured Douglas Ahlstedt and Frederica Von Stade. Von Stade would perform another six in 1995 alongside Dwayne Croft; Croft would take on the role another nine times in 2000, this time with Dawn Upshaw and Susanne Mentzer.

In 2005, William Burden and Anne Sofie Von Otter would join forces for four performances. In 2010-11, Stéphane Degout and Magdalena Kocena would be the most recent interpreters of the opera at the Met, totaling five performances together.