L'enfant prodigue

L'enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Son) is a scène lyrique or cantata in one act by Claude Debussy with a text by Édouard Guinand.[1] The cantata premiered in Paris on June 27, 1884[2] as part of the Prix de Rome for composition competition which was awarded to Debussy with this piece by 22 out of 28 votes.[3] The prize win garnered Debussy a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, to further his studies (1885-1887).

The soloists at its first performance were Rose Caron (Lia), Ernest Van Dyck (Azaël), and Émile-Alexandre Taskin (Siméon).[3]

The later version of 1907 was reorchestrated with the help of André Caplet and the premiere of this version took place at the Sheffield Music Festival in 1908, conducted by Henry Wood. In 2021 George Morton created a chamber version[4] of the work (for 10 musicians) for performances by Opera on Location in Sheffield.[5]

Although the work was never intended to be staged, it has on occasion been presented as a one-act opera.[6]


At sunrise Lia (soprano) laments the absence of Azaël (tenor), her prodigal son, an outcast after leaving his home to pursue the world's pleasures. Siméon (baritone) is weary of her constant thinking of Azaël. After the appearance and dance of young villagers, Azaël enters, and is joyfully reunited with his mother. She urges Siméon to forgive and welcome him home which he does, calling for a feast of celebration and singing praises to God.


  1. Prélude
  2. Air : "L'année, en vain chasse l'année ; Azaël, pourquoi m'as-tu quittée?"
  3. Récit : "Eh bien, encor des pleurs !"
  4. Cortège et Air de danse
  5. Récit et Air : "Ces airs joyeux ; O temps, à jamais effacé"
  6. Récit et Air : "Je m'enfuis"
  7. Duo : "Rouvre les yeux à la lumière"
  8. Air : "Mon fils est revenu ; Plus de vains soucis"
  9. Trio : "Mon cœur renaît à l’espérance"


  1. ^ Centre de documentation Claude Debussy, accessed 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "L'enfant prodigue, 27 July 1884". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  3. ^ a b Noel, Édouard, Stoullig, Edmond. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, dixième année, 1884. G. Charpentier, Paris, 1885, p.377.
  4. ^ "Prodigal Son Chamber Reduction".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Opera on Location, Prodigal Son".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ See Sosland (December 2004) and Holland (10 December 2004)