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Pelléas et Mélisande (Pelléas och Mélisande), Op. 46, is incidental music by Jean Sibelius for Maurice Maeterlinck's 1892 play Pelléas and Mélisande. Sibelius composed in 1905 ten parts,[1] overtures to the five acts and five other movements. It was first performed at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki on 17 March 1905 to a translation by Bertel Gripenberg, conducted by the composer).[2]

Pelléas et Mélisande
Incidental music by Jean Sibelius
Sibelius edelfeldt.jpg
The composer in 1904, by Albert Edelfelt
CatalogueOp. 46
Composed1905 (1905)
Performed17 March 1905 (1905-03-17)

Sibelius later slightly rearranged the music into a nine movement suite, which became one of his most popular concert works.[2]


Movements of the suiteEdit

The movements were derived from the following numbers:

  1. At the Castle Gate (Prelude from Act I, scene 1)
  2. Mélisande (Prelude from Act I, scene 2)
  3. At the Seashore (Melodrama from Act I, scene 4)
  4. A Spring in the Park (Prelude from Act II, scene 1)
  5. The Three Blind Sisters (Mélisande's Song from Act III, scene 2)
  6. Pastorale (Melodrama from Act III, scene 4)
  7. Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel (Prelude from Act III, scene 1)
  8. Entr'acte (Prelude from Act IV, scene 1)
  9. The Death of Mélisande (Prelude from Act V, scene 2).[3]

Excluded from the suite is Prelude to Act IV, scene 2, as well as the vocal version of No. 5, Mélisande's Song.[3]

The opening movement of the suite for orchestra is called "At the Castle Gate". The strings introduce an atmospheric, brief theme, which is then restated with help from the woodwind. This introduction is closed by austere chords. This section is familiar to British television viewers as the theme of the world's longest-running TV programme (1957-present), the BBC's The Sky at Night, first presented by Sir Patrick Moore (1923-2012) and presently by Chris Lintott and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Then the character Mélisande is introduced with characteristically strong material presented by a cor anglais solo. This is succeeded by a brief intermezzo, "At the Seashore," which Sibelius regarded as dispensable in concert performances.

The strings present the dense sonorities of the melodic material of "A Spring in the Park," which is followed by the "Three Blind Sisters," in which another cor anglais solo is answered by monolithic orchestral harmonies.

The sixth movement, "Pastorale," is scored for woodwind and string instruments and exhibits the subtlety of chamber music.

The seventh, "Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel," presents the largest and most dramatic image heard so far, which is followed by an Entr'acte. This immense movement could serve as a symphonic finale in its own right but the pace of the drama demands an epilogue. With the moving "The Death of Mélisande," the tragic story of the doomed love affair reaches its conclusion.

Sibelius later made a transcription of the suite for solo piano, excluding the 'At the Seashore' movement.


The work is scored for flute (with piccolo), oboe (with English horn), two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, timpani/triangle/bass drum, and strings.


  1. ^ "Pelléas och Mélisande / (Pelléas and Mélisande)" (PDF). BIS. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Incidental music / Op. 71 Pelléas et Mélisande". Jean Sibelius. Finnish Club of Helsinki. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b Levas, Santeri (1986). Jean Sibelius: Muistelma suuresta ihmisestä (in Finnish) (2nd ed.). Helsinki: WSOY. p. 466. ISBN 951-0-13306-X.

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