Debussy: A Life in Song

13 October 2018, 11:00am - 3:30pm

We welcome Richard Langham Smith – a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres for services to French Music and Culture – to lead a fascinating day exploring the life and music of Claude Debussy, joined by Helen Abbott, an expert in French poetry and music, and some superb musicians.


11am - 11.45am - THE EARLY YEARS

Richard Langham Smith speaker


Richard Langham Smith introduces the young Debussy, taking us through his earliest compositions and the years of the extraordinary songs written for his muse, Madame Vasnier.


Gillian Keith soprano

Simon Lepper piano


At 18, Debussy fell in love with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a captivating society lady and talented singer. This programme – already performed to great acclaim – includes some of Debussy’s most ravishing songs, written for Mme Vasnier, and is illuminated by revealing and poignant readings from diaries and letters, allowing a closer look into their extraordinary relationship.


A light lunch is available to pre-book (£7)


Helen Abbott delves into the poetry of Verlaine with particular reference to Debussy’s Fêtes galantes while Richard Langham Smith discusses Debussy and Impressionism, highlighting the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau and their significance for the composer. The lecture is illuminated by slides of the paintings and performances of the songs in question.

2.45pm-3.30pm - THE FINAL YEARS

Our speakers conclude the day in conversation about Debussy’s late songs, including settings of his own texts in the Proses lyriques and his settings of Mallarmé, also illustrated with live performances.


Josephine Goddard soprano

Rory Carver tenor

Simon Lepper piano

N.B. A 'Debussy Day Pass' is available to purchase for £65 which will enable you to attend all talks and concerts (excluding meals) at the festival on 13th October 2018. Please book your day pass via the 'Tickets' box on this page.

OLF2018 Brochure Cover

12 October 2018 | 9:00am

The Grand Tour – A European Journey in Song

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She'Koyokh Quintet: Upstairs at the St Aldates Tavern
12 October 2018, 9:30pm 03 March 2024 - 9:57pm
Next Event
Capturing the Illusive Image: Debussy and Impressionism
13 October 2018, 5:30pm 03 March 2024 - 9:57pm

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