‘Taming two Spanish Women: reflections on editing Opera.’

Smith, Richard Langham (2007). ‘Taming two Spanish Women: reflections on editing Opera.’. In: Kelly, Barbara and Murphy, Kerry eds. Berlioz and Debussy: sources, contexts, legacies. (Essays in honour of François Lesure). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 83–102.

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This essay outlines methodologies resulting from, and applied to, my editions of Bizet’ s Carmen (1999, on hire from Peters Edition) and Debussy’s Rodrigue et Chimène (output 1 above). Both works are on Spanish themes and both to some extent employ Spanish modes. In the case of Debussy, the use of Spanish and quasi-Moorish scales presents editorial difficulties, particularly because of the composer’s omission of accidentals at the particelle stage. The essay contrasts the two works in the differences of the extant sources: briefly, Carmen has many sources to draw upon while Rodrigue has only one source, itself partially lost and incomplete. In the case of Carmen, the essay makes a case for consultation of production sources in the editorial process, in particular the livrets de mise-en-scène in the collection of the Association de la régie théâtrale, in the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris. The uses of these, as well as the reproduced Mise-en-scène by the Opéra Comique, are explained, and the notion of a staging, rather than a production (in the modern-day sense) are contrasted. The essay proposes the notion of a ‘Performance-Urtext’ as a way forward for the editing of operas where the staging may be considered an essential part of the spectacle.

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