Discovering Debussy

James Conlon Directs and Curates Discovering Debussy, a Citywide Exploration of the French Composer’s Life and Legacy

Colburn School, The Hammer Museum, LA Opera, Norton Simon Museum, The Opera League of Los Angeles, and The Ebell of Los Angeles Present Performances and Events That Illuminate the Music and Spirit of Debussy, One of the 20th Century’s Most Influential Composers

March 1 – April 16 

(WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023, Los Angeles) – The Colburn School, one of the world’s preeminent schools for music and dance, announces “Discovering Debussy,”  a citywide celebration of Claude Debussy in March and April which features intimate conversations and performances hosted by several of L.A.’s top cultural destinations. Events at The Colburn School, The Hammer Museum, LA Opera, Norton Simon Museum, The Opera League of Los Angeles, and The Ebell of Los Angeles explore the life and legacy of the French composer, who is considered the founder of Impressionist music and one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.

“Discovering Debussy” is directed and curated by LA Opera Music Director James Conlon to raise interest and provoke discussion about Debussy’s music and life just prior to LA Opera’s eagerly awaited production of Pelléas et Mélisande. Beginning March 25, Maestro Conlon conducts six performances of Debussy’s landmark 20th-century opera. David McVicar’s production marks the opera’s first time onstage at LA Opera for over 25 years.

Maestro Conlon has been a central force for several other Los Angeles music festivals beginning with the 2010 “Ring Festival” which forged a model for community collaboration between cultural and educational institutions. In 2013, Maestro Conlon conceived of and led a series of performances by composer Benjamin Britten as part of the “Britten 100/LA” celebration which culminated with performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall of Britten’s War Requiem which featured over 400 orchestra and choir members from the Colburn Orchestra and other LA institutions. In addition to maintaining a rigorous conducting schedule for decades, Maestro Conlon has always focused on educating the public through collaborations with performing arts institutions, musicians, and singers as well as colleges, universities, and conservatories, most notably The Colburn School.

“Harking back to the “Britten 100/LA” in 2013 and the “Ring Festival” in 2010, I would like to pay a deep personal homage to Claude Debussy, a composer who was, amongst many other things, a connective thread between Wagner, whose profound influence helped to inform his genius, and Benjamin Britten, who benefited greatly from the paths he had opened to twentieth century music,” said Maestro Conlon. “Pelléas et Mélisande is one of those rare works that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, for which there is no substitute.  If it possesses you, as it has me from the time of my adolescence, it is for life. Its magic is irreplaceable, its embrace so personal, almost private, that words are inadequate. I would like to introduce many new listeners to its addictive power, that they might feel as I do.”

“Colburn School is proud to be an integral part of this sweeping exploration of Claude Debussy, and support LA Opera’s performances of Pelléas et Mélisande,” said Colburn President Sel Kardan. “Discovery Debussy is a unique performing arts experience that celebrates the composer’s influence while showcasing the breadth of talent in Los Angeles, from emerging to established artists, at many of the city’s premier cultural institutions.”

“Discovering Debussy” Schedule At A Glance

The Colburn School | March 1 at 7 pm Music and Dance

The Colburn School | March 3 at 7 pm Chamber Works

LA Opera | March 4 at 9 am Opera for Educators: Pelléas and Mélisande

Hammer Museum | March 5 at 3 pm James Conlon on Debussy

The Opera League of Los Angeles | March 7 at 6 pm Opera League Seminar: Maestro Conlon on Pelléas et Mélisande

The Colburn School | March 8 at 7 pm Reflections on Debussy: A Conversation with James Conlon and Jean-Yves Thibaudet

LA Opera | March 25-April 16 Pelléas and Mélisande

The Ebell of Los Angeles | April 4 at 7 6:30 pm Impressions of Pelléas

Norton Simon Museum | Claude Debussy: Refracting his Music through Art

Complete Details

Colburn School presents Music and Dance
Wednesday, March 1 at 7 pm

Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Avenue

Music and Dance is the first of three Debussy events presented by Colburn, all of which feature Maestro Conlon providing musical and historical context throughout the performance. This program explores Debussy’s rich and imaginative works including Syrinx for solo flute and Six épigraphes antiques for piano duo, with dancers from Colburn’s Trudl Zipper Dance Institute performing choreography by Jerome Robbins.

DEBUSSY Six épigraphes antiques for Piano, Four-Hands; choreography by Jerome Robbins
DEBUSSY Syrinx for Flute
DEBUSSY Chansons de Bilitis, ft. Sarah Saturnino, mezzo-soprano from LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program
DEBUSSY Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp
DEBUSSY  Preludes for Piano, Books I &  II

Colburn School presents Chamber Works
Friday, March 3 at 7 pm

Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Avenue

Enjoy a program of Debussy’s colorful chamber works, including Danses sacrée et profane for String Quintet and Harp, conducted by Maestro Conlon, and Debussy’s string quartet, performed by Colburn’s award-winning ensemble-in-residence, Quartet Integra.

DEBUSSY Danses sacrée et profane for String Quintet and Harp, ft. James Conlon, conductor
DEBUSSY Première Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano
DEBUSSY Sonata for Violin and Piano
DEBUSSY Quartet for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello in G Minor, ft. Quartet Integra

LA Opera presents Opera for Educators: Pelléas and Mélisande
Saturday, March 4 at 9 am

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N Grand Ave
$20, in-person or Zoom

Featuring a special appearance by LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director James Conlon on March 4, Opera for Educators includes presentations from experts in music, history, languages and—of course—opera. Open to educators and the public.

Hammer Museum presents James Conlon on Debussy
Sunday, March 5 at 3 pm

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd
Free, seats assigned on a first come, first served basis starting one hour before the event.

In this illuminating talk, James Conlon shares his passion for the legacy of French composer Claude Debussy, the first Impressionist composer,  in conjunction with the Los Angeles Opera’s production of Debussy’s landmark work, Pelléas et Mélisande.

The Opera League of Los Angeles presents
Opera League Seminar: Maestro Conlon on Pelléas et Mélisande
Tuesday, March 7; reception and light refreshments at 6 pm, presentation at 7 pm

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 5th floor Salons, 135 N Grand Ave
$35 for non-members; $25 for Opera League Members
For questions: email or call the message center at 213-972-7220.

Join the Opera League on Tuesday, March 7 and learn about this opera’s hypnotic spell with Maestro Conlon. He will share his analysis of this sensual, exquisitely nuanced score and its enigmatic dream world where forbidden love blossoms. The event begins at 6pm with a reception and light refreshments, and at 7pm Maestro Conlon will lead us on a journey into this magical work.

Colburn School presents
Reflections on Debussy: A Conversation with James Conlon and Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Wednesday, March 8 at 7 pm

Thayer Hall, 200 S. Grand Avenue

Join us for an intimate conversation about Debussy with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Maestro Conlon. The evening also features a performance of Debussy’s Cello Sonata, played by Colburn faculty member Clive Greensmith.

LA Opera presents Pelléas and Mélisande
March 25-April 16

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N Grand Ave

Conducted by James Conlon, this fascinating lyric masterpiece stars two riveting young performers, soprano Sydney Mancasola and baritone Will Liverman, as the doomed lovers, and Kyle Ketelsen as the jealous prince. The magnificent Susan Graham makes her role debut as Geneviève, mother of the two rival brothers, and the legendary bass Ferruccio Furlanetto returns as King Arkel, the family patriarch unable to grasp the tragedy unfolding before him. View complete list of cast and production team.

James Conlon conducts all performances. One hour before each performance, join him for a pre-show talk about Pelléas et Mélisande in Stern Grand Hall, on the second floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Admission is complimentary with your ticket.

Ebell of Los Angeles presents Impressions of Pelléas
Tuesday, April 4 at 7:30 pm; pre-concert lecture 6:30 pm  

Lounge at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 741 S. Lucerne
$15 (free for students)

Based on an enchanting story about a love triangle and an elusive woman found in the forest, Impressions de Pelléas is an abbreviated version of Debussy’s original five-act opera, Pelléas and Mélisande, reimagined on a chamber scale for two pianists and five singers. Under the baton of world-renowned conductor and music director at LA Opera, James Conlon, and performed by artists from LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program and the Colburn School, the story flows seamlessly across 100 minutes of ethereal music. Conceived as an intimate performance experience, Impressions of Pelléas is presented in a beautiful salon setting in the historic lounge at The Ebell of Los Angeles.

Approximately one hour prior to the start of the performance, James Conlon, whose pre-performance lectures have become events almost as highly anticipated as his musical presentations, will present a deep dive into the French composer Claude Debussy and explore his only opera.

Featured artists:

LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program
Deepa Johnny, Melisandre
Madeleine Lyon, Genevieve
Anthony Leon, Pelleas
Ryan Wolfe, Golaud
Alan Williams, Arkel

The Colburn School, pianists from the studio of Fabio Bidini
HyeJin Park
Yanfeng (Tony) Bai
Vijay Venkatesh
Ryota Yamazaki

Norton Simon Museum presents
Claude Debussy: Refracting His Music Through Art

The Norton Simon Museum is pleased to collaborate with LA Opera on an audio tour exploring the artistic legacy of Claude Debussy and his relationship to the visual artists of his time, including Claude Monet, Édouard Vuillard, and many others. Maestro Conlon narrates the tour and pairs selections from Debussy’s oeuvre with paintings in the Museum’s 19th-century galleries. Available in March, the audio tour can be streamed in the Norton Simon Museum galleries using your smartphone, or enjoyed at home as an audio slideshow on the Museum’s website.

Press Contacts

James Conlon
Lisa Jaehnig | Shuman Associates | 646-489-2700

Colburn School
Lisa Bellamore│323-500-3071

LA Opera
Marlene Meraz

The Opera League of Los Angeles
Gary Murphy │ 213-700-9645

The Ebell of Los Angeles
Vanessa Waite | 323-377-0017

Hammer Museum
Nancy Lee | 310-443-7016

About James Conlon
James Conlon, one of today’s most versatile and respected conductors, has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic, and choral repertoire. Since his 1974 debut with the New York Philharmonic, he has conducted virtually every major American and European symphony orchestra. Through worldwide touring, an extensive discography and videography, numerous writings, television appearances and guest speaking engagements, Conlon is one of classical music’s most recognized figures.

Conlon is Music Director of LA Opera, where he has led more performances than any other conductor in the company’s history, and Artistic Advisor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has been Principal Conductor of the Paris Opera; General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany, where he was Music Director of both the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the Cologne Opera; Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra Nazionale Della RAI in Torino, Italy. He has served as Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony; and is now Music Director Laureate of the Cincinnati May Festival, where he was Music Director for 37 years. As a guest conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, he has led more than 270 performances since his 1976 debut.

Conlon is an enthusiastic advocate of public scholarship and cultural institutions as forums for the exchange of ideas and inquiry into the role music plays in our shared humanity and civic life. At LA Opera, his pre-performance talks draw upon musicology, literary studies, history, and social sciences to contemplate the enduring power and relevance of opera, and classical music in general. To call attention to lesser-known works of composers silenced by the Nazi regime, Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music throughout Europe and North America. His work on behalf of suppressed composers led to the creation of The OREL Foundation and the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School. Among his numerous prizes are four Grammy® Awards for recordings with LA Opera, a 2002 Légion d’Honneur from then-President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac, and a 2018 Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana from Sergio Mattarella, President of the Italian Republic.

About the Colburn School
A performing arts institution located in the cultural corridor of downtown Los Angeles, the Colburn School trains students from beginners to those about to embark on professional careers. The academic units of the School provide a complete spectrum of music and dance education united by a single philosophy: that all who desire to study music or dance should have access to top-level instruction. Each year, nearly 2,000 students from around the world come to the Community School of Performing Arts, Conservatory of Music, Music Academy, and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute. Serving all units of the School, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact prepares students for sustainable careers and empowers the musical and dance leaders of tomorrow.

Colburn recently unveiled plans for a campus expansion designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Located across the street from the School’s existing campus at the intersection of Olive and Second Streets, the Colburn Center will enable the School to expand its mission of presenting programs for the public. Gehry’s design includes Terri and Jerry Kohl Hall, a 1,000-seat in-the-round concert hall, four professional-sized dance studios, and a 100-seat flexible studio theater. Learn more at

About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be. Through imaginative new productions, world premiere commissions, and inventive performances that preserve foundational works while making them feel fresh and compelling, LA Opera has become one of America’s most exciting and ambitious opera companies.

In addition to its mainstage performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the company explores unusual repertoire each season through the LA Opera Off Grand initiative, featuring performances in a variety of venues throughout Los Angeles. The LA Opera Connects initiative offers a robust variety of educational programming and community engagement offerings that reaches people throughout every corner of Los Angeles County. The company also offers a multitude of online content via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which launched in 2020. Learn more at

About the Opera League of Los Angeles
Founded in 1981, the Opera League of Los Angeles is the primary volunteer support organization, and co-founder, of LA Opera, the resident opera company for the City of Los Angeles.  Through its many events, the Opera League of Los Angeles supports opera through its arts education programs, volunteer opportunities, and fundraising on behalf of LA Opera, and serves as an ongoing resource for community engagement.  For more information, visit

About The Ebell of Los Angeles
The Ebell of Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization founded in 1894 by women for women. It is focused on providing a vibrant and inclusive arts and culture hub that fosters the educational, cultural, and social growth of women. At The Ebell, women convene to learn, create, collaborate, innovate, and champion one another to transform the lives of women. The organization’s philanthropic efforts include the RCA endowment which awards annual grants totaling more than $100,000 per year to various nonprofits that assist women and children in need, and the 104-year-old Ebell/Flint Scholarship that has awarded more than 5,000 scholarships to local college and university students. The group’s historic campus located in the Hancock Park/Windsor Square area is an iconic landmark listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

About The Hammer Museum
The Hammer Museum is part of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA, and offers exhibitions and collections that span classic to contemporary art. It holds more than 50,000 works in its collection, including one of the finest collections of works on paper in the nation, the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts. Through a wide-ranging, international exhibition program and the biennial, Made in L.A., the Hammer highlights contemporary art since the 1960s, especially the work of emerging and under-recognized artists. The exhibitions, permanent collections, and nearly 300 public programs annually— including film screenings, lectures, symposia, readings, music performances, and workshops for families—are all free to the public.