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This article is about the opera.

For the Indian cosmetics manufacturer, see Lakme


Léo Delibes

Le roi l'a dit (1873)
Jean de Nivelle (1880)
Lakmé (1883)
Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond
Gondinet and Philippe Gille. Set in British India in the mid 19th century, Lakmé is
based on the 1880 novel Rarahu ou Le Mariage de Loti by Pierre Loti. Delibes wrote
the score during 1881-82 with its first performance on 14 April 1883 at the Opéra
Comique in Paris. The opera includes the famous and popular Flower Duet (Sous le
dôme épais) for sopranos performed in the first act by the lead character Lakmé,
the daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant Mallika.[1] Another famous aria
from the opera is the Bell Song (L'Air des clochettes) in Act 2.

Like other French operas of the period, Lakmé captures the ambiance of the Orient
that was in vogue during the latter part of the nineteenth century in line with other
operatic works such as Bizet's The Pearl Fishers and Massenet's Le roi de Lahore.
[2]The subject of the opera was suggested by Gondinet as a vehicle for the
American soprano Marie van Zandt.[citation needed]


1 Performance
2 Music
3 Roles
4 Synopsis
4.1 Act 1
4.2 Act 2
4.3 Act 3
4.4 Musical
4.4.1 Act I
4.4.2 Act II
4.4.3 Act III
5 Recordings
6 External links
7 References
Performance history

Following its premier at the Opéra Comique in 1883, Lakmé reached its 500th
performance there on 23 June 1909 and 1,000th on 13 May 1931. A series of
performances took place at the Théâtre Gaîté Lyrique Paris in 1908, with Alice
Verlet, David Devriès and Félix Vieuille.[3]


Original poster for Lakmé

In conventional form and pleasant style, but given over to the fashion for exoticism,
the delicate orchestration and melodic richness earned Delibes a success with
audiences.[4] The passionate elements of the opera are given warm and expressive
music, while the score in general is marked by subtle harmonic colours and deft
orchestration. Oriental colour is used in prayers, incantations, dances and the scene
in the market.[2]

The Act 2 aria "Où va la jeune Hindoue?" (the 'Bell Song') has long been a favourite
recital piece for coloratura sopranos (recordings of it in Italian, as "Dov'e L'indiana
Bruna?", exist).

In recent years, the Flower Duet in Act 1 has become familiar more widely because
of its use in advertisements - in particular the British Airways commercial - [5] as
well as in films.[6]


Jean-Alexandre Talazac as Gérald

Premiere cast,[7]
14 April 1883
Role Voice type
(Conductor: Jules
Gérald, a British army officer tenor
Nilakantha, a Brahmin priest bass Cobalet
Lakmé, a priestess, daughter of soprano Marie van Zandt
Frédéric, officer friend of Gérald baritone Barré
Mallika, slave of Lakmé Frandin
Hadji, slave of Nilakantha tenor Chennevière
Miss Ellen, fiancée of Gérald soprano Rémy
Miss Rose, companion of Ellen soprano Molé-Truffier
Mistress Bentson, a governess Pierron
Fortune teller ('Un Domben') tenor Teste
A Chinese merchant tenor Davoust
Le Kouravar baritone Bernard
Chorus: Officers, ladies, merchants, Brahmins, musicians

The story is set in the late nineteenth century British Raj in India. Many Hindus have
been forced by the British to practice their religion in secret.

Act 1

The Hindus go to perform their rites in a sacred Brahmin temple under the high
priest, Nilakantha. Nilakantha's daughter Lakmé (which derives from the Sanskrit
Lakshmi) and her servant Mallika are left behind and go down to the river to gather
flowers where they sing the famous "Flower Duet." As they approach the water at
the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench. A party of
British officers, Frederic and Gérald, arrive nearby while on a picnic with two British
girls and their governess. The British girls see the jewelry and request sketches:
Gérald volunteers to stay and make sketches of the jewelry. He sees Lakmé and
Mallika returning and hides. Mallika leaves Lakmé for a while; while alone Lakmé
sees Gérald and, frightened by the foreigner's incursion, cries out for help. However,
simultaneously, she is intrigued and so she sends away those who had responded to
her call for help when they come to her rescue. Lakmé and Gérald begin to fall in
love with each other. Nilakantha returns and learns of the British officer's
trespassing and vows revenge on him for his affront to Lakmé's honour.

Act 2

At a bazaar, Nilakantha forces Lakmé to sing (Bell Song) in order to lure the
trespasser into identifying himself. When Gérald steps forward, Lakmé faints, thus
giving him away. Nilakantha stabs Gérald, wounding him. Lakmé takes Gérald to a
secret hideout in the forest where she nurses him back to health.

Act 3

While Lakmé fetches sacred water that will confirm the vows of the lovers, Fréderic,
a fellow British officer, appears before Gérald and reminds him of his duty to his
regiment. After Lakmé returns, she senses the change in Gérald and realizes that
she has lost him. She dies with honour, rather than live with dishonour, killing
herself by eating the poisonous datura leaf.

Musical numbers


Act I

No. 1 Introduction: "À l'heure accoutumée" (Nilakantha)

Prière: "Blanche Dourga" (Lakmé, Nilakantha)

No. 1 Bis - Scène: "Lakmé, c'est toi qui nous protégeons!" (Nilakantha, Lakmé)

No. 2 - Duetto (The Flower Duet): "Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs ... Dôme épais,
le jasmin" (Lakmé, Mallika)

Scène: "Miss Rose, Miss Ellen" (Gérald)

No. 3 - Quintette & couplets: "Quand une femme est si jolie" (Gérald)

Récitatif: "Nous commettons un sacrilège" (Gérald)

No. 4 - Air: "Prendre le dessin d'un bijou" (Gérald)

No. 4 Bis - Scène: "Non! Je ne veux pas toucher" (Gérald, Lakmé)

No. 5 - Récitatif & Strophes: "Les fleurs me paraissent plus belles" (Lakmé)

No. 5 Bis - Récitatif: "Ah! Mallika! Mallika!" (Lakmé)

No. 6 - Duo: "D'où viens-tu? Que veux-tu?" (Lakmé, Gérald)

No. 6 Bis - Scène: "Viens! Là! Là!" (Nilakantha, Lakmé)

Act II


No. 7 - Choeur & Scène du marche: "Allons, avant que midi sonne"

No. 7 Bis - Récitatif: "Enfin! Nous aurons du silence!"

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Introduction

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Terana

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Rektah

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Persian

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Coda avec Choeurs

No. 8 - Airs de danse: Sortie

Récitatif: "Voyez donc ce vieillard"

No. 9 - Scène & Stances: "Ah! Ce vieillard encore!" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)

No. 9 Bis - Récitatif: "Ah! C'est de ta douleur" (Lakmé, Nilankantha)

No. 10 - Scène & Legende de la fille du Paria (Air des Clochettes/The Bell Song):

"Ah!... Par les dieux inspires... Où va la jeune Hindoue" (Lakmé, Nilankantha)

No. 11 - Scène: "La rage me dévore" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)

No. 12 - Scène & Choeur: "Au milieu des chants d'allegresse" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)

No. 12 Bis - Récitatif: "Le maître ne pense qu'à sa vengeance"

No. 13 - Duo: "Lakmé! Lakmé! C'est toi!" (Lakmé, Gérald)

No. 14 - Finale: "O Dourga, toi qui renais" (Gérald)



No. 15 - Berceuse: "Sous le ciel tout étoile" (Lakmé)

No. 15 Bis - Récitatif: "Quel vague souvenir alourdit ma pensée?" (Gérald, Lakmé)

No. 16 - Cantilène: "Lakmé! Lakmé! Ah! Viens dans la forêt profonde" (Gérald)

No. 17 - Scène & Choeur: "La, je pourrai t'entendre" (Lakmé, Gérald)

No. 18 - Scène: "Vivant!" (Gérald)

No. 19 - Duo: "Ils allaient deux à deux" (Lakmé, Gérald)

No. 20 - Finale: "C'est lui! C'est lui!" (Nilankantha, Lakmé, Gérald)


1940: Lily Pons (Lakmé), Armand Tokatyan (Gérald), Ezio Pinza (Nilakantha), Ira
Petina (Mallika), New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Wilfrid
Pelletier (conductor) (The Golden Age; live)
1952: Mado Robin (Lakmé), Libero de Luca (Gérald), Jacques Jansen (Frédéric), Jean
Borthayre (Nilakantha), Agnés Disney (Mallika), Chœurs et Orchestre du Théâtre
National de l'Opéra-Comique, Georges Sébastian (conductor) (Decca)

1967: Joan Sutherland (Lakmé), Alain Vanzo (Gérald), Gabriel Bacquier (Nilakantha),
Jane Berbié (Mallika), Chœurs et Orchestre National de l'Opéra de Monte Carlo,
Richard Bonynge (conductor) (Decca)

1970: Mady Mesplé (Lakmé), Charles Burles (Gérald), Roger Soyer (Nilakantha),
Danielle Millet (Mallika), Chœurs et Orchestre du Théâtre National de l'Opéra-
Comique, Alain Lombard (conductor) (EMI)

1998: Natalie Dessay (Lakmé), Gregory Kunde (Gérald), José van Dam (Nilakantha),
Chœur et Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, Michel Plasson (conductor) (EMI)

External links

Essay by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan about the use of music from Lakmé in films.


^ "Lakmé by Leo Delibes". NPR. National Public Radio, USA. Retrieved 16
December 2010.

^ a b MacDonald H. Lakmé. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan,

London and New York, 1997.

^ Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.

^ Lacombe H. The Keys to French Opera in the Nineteenth Century. University of

California Press, Los Angeles, 2001.

^ "'Lakme,' by Leo Delibes". NPR Music. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2009-

^ Such as The Hunger. "'Horror! - Monsters, Witches & Vampires (Soundtrack)'".

Silva America.

^ Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.

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