About this work
Debussy worked on this one-act opera from 1908 until 1917, the year before his death after terrible suffering from illness. It has been hypothesised that he refrained from completing the work from a fear of "total extinction" that would somehow signal. Today it is most often performed in the version that was edited and completed by Chilean composer Juan Allende-Blin in 1976 (there is also a re-construction by two Yale musicologists). Originally intended as the first of two one-act operas on stories by Edgar Allen Poe, the other to be the amusing "The Devil in the Belfry", Debussy left us a dreamy, eerie score with some of his most advanced harmonic writing. The orchestra music suggests the unsettling, foreboding emotions of the environment that surrounds the vocalists who represent the characters of the Doctor, Lady Madeline and Roderick. The works of Poe were enormously influential in much of French symbolist poetry (Baudelaire, Mallarmé, etc.) and nineteenth- and early twentieth-century music in general (Debussy, Caplet, D.E. Inghelbrecht's symphonic poem on "The Devil in the Belfry", Rachmaninoff's "The Bells", etc.). "La Chute .." is a brilliant setting in the spirit of his writings.