The Prismatic Debussy – Festival 2012 – Eastman School of Music

Comic-book Debussy

A conversation with P. Craig Russell
Thursday, October 25, 7 PM, MEMORIAL ART GALLERY
Free with gallery admission

A Conversation with artist P. Craig Russell, creator of several comic books based on famous operas, including The Magic Flute, Salome, Wagner’s Ring, and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.

While it is hardly surprising that Maeterlinck’s play and Debussy’s opera have both had a significant impact on later generations of dramatists and composers, it is certainly remarkable that they have also inspired P. Craig Russell, one of the most distinguished illustrators and comic-book artists. Born in Wellsville, Ohio, Russell studied at the University of Cincinnati College of Art and earned a B.F.A. in painting and illustration in 1974. His career began with Marvel Comics in the 1970s and took off with his outstanding illustrations for Dr. Strange (1973-1976) and Killraven/War of the Worlds (1974-1976). Starting in the early 1980s, he began illustrating adaptations of novels by Michael Moorcock: Elric of Melniboné (with Roy Thomas and Michael T. Gilbert; 1982-1984), The Dreaming City and While the Gods Laugh (1979-1980 and 1981), and Stormbringer (1993-1995). Russell has also collaborated with writer Neil Gaiman, especially on The Sandman (1992, 2003, 2008), One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock (1996), and Coraline (2008), and has been adapting the complete fairy tales of Oscar Wilde.

In addition to these mainstream works, Russell has also devoted much of his career to adapting operas and other musical compositions. This aspect of his work is clearly an outgrowth of his life-long interest in music and his fondness for playing the piano. Although Russell contemplated illustrating The Ring of the Nibelung as an 18-year-old freshman and produced an early version of Siegfried slaying the dragon, he completed his first opera rendition in 1976-1977: Wagner’s Parsifal. A few years later, he came up with the idea of producing a set of twelve opera adaptations: the set includes Pelléas & Mélisande (1985), Salomé (1986), Ariane and Bluebeard (1988), and The Magic Flute (1989–90). In 2002-2001, Russell finally completed The Ring of the Nibelung, winning a prestigious Eisner Awards from the comic-book industry.

Professor of Religion Emil Homerin and guest scholar David Grayson (University of Minnesota, Professor of Musicology) will join Professor of Music Theory Matthew Brown in a conversation with artist P. Craig Russell on 25 October at 7 p.m., at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery.

Matthew Brown
Professor of Music Theory

Pelleas Cover


Renowned comic-book artist P. Craig Russell has published an artful version of Debussy’s beloved opera, in his own powerful style. The Eastman School’s presentation on Friday October 26 in Kodak Hall will include a newly reimagined version of Debussy’s score for a small mixed ensemble of instruments with live electronics, all illustrated by panels from that comic-book version. (The video available below gives a sense of the visuals but uses other music.)

Visit Pelléas Redux

Act IV, scene iv ( “C’est le dernier soir . . .” ) from Pélléas et Mélisande (opera; 1893-95, 1901-02)
excerpt from Eastman Audio Archive call no. AM9274 : AM9279

Performed on May 7, 1987 in the Eastman Theatre by Eugenia P. Garrity, soprano, in the role of Mélisande, and John Kramar, baritone, in the role of Pélléas, and the members of the Eastman Philharmonia, conducted by David Gilbert.
Dr. Garrity is now a recitalist and voice teacher based in Lakeland, Florida. Mr. Kramar is Associate Professor of Voice, Chair of the Department of Vocal Studies, and Director of the East Carolina University Opera Theater at the East Carolina University School of Music in Greenville, North Carolina. Maestro Gilbert currently serves as Resident Conductor at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.

[audio:|titles=Act IV – scene iv]