Claude Debussy was a French composer of the 20th century and one of the most influential figures in the impressionist music area. It was not until 1894, at the age of 32, that Debussy finished the first piece to announce his freedom of thought completely: Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune, a highly imaginative work influenced by Stephane Mallarmé's poem. Debussy initiated severe work on his opera Pelleas et Melisande (completed in 1902) and the three orchestral Nocturnes after his first successes. He then started a romantic affair with Emma Bardac, Gabriel Faure's one-time mistress, during which his wife desperately tried to shoot herself. In 1914, Debussy learned he had cancer right when he was at the peak of his power. The surgery left him so weakened that he had been composing little for over a year.
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