Shop and Buy Lakme. Sheet music book by Leo Delibes (1836-1891): International Music Co. At Sheet Music Plus. Notes Horn 1 (in D, E ♭), Horn 4 (in E) transposed to F. Original Horn '4' appears as Horn '2' in this set.There are misprints/errata in these parts, see Discussion for corrections.: Purchase. Addeddate 2014-01-29 19:34 Call number lib pam 00688 Camera Canon EOS 5D Mark II Catkey 3642591 Corporateauthor-External-identifier urn:oclc:record. Directed by John Charles. With Joan Sutherland, Isobel Buchanan, Huguette Tourangeau, Jennifer Bermingham.LAKMÉ
Opéra in 3 acts
Composer: Léo Delibes
Libretto: Edmond Gondinet & Philippe Gille
First performed: Opéra-Comique, Paris, 14 April 1883
Lakmé, daughter of a Brahmin priest, falls in love with an English soldier. When he leaves her to return to his regiment, she eats the flowers of the datura plant - and dies.
You'd know, if nothing else from it, the Flower Duet and the Bell Song.
Here's the Flower Duet:
And a famous recording of the Bell Song:
“It is hard to understand how Lakmé got under the wire into the field of Grand Opera,” sniffed Sir Denis Forman in his Good Opera Guide.
“It certainly isn’t grand nor is it an opera, except in the sense that any piece staged with singers and a full orchestra is an opera. … So I would advise against spending the price of an opera ticket on Lakmé. Indeed, if the sale were challenged on the grounds of infringing the Trades Descriptions Act, I would not be surprised.”
Hush, tish, and pibble. No, Sir Denis, Lakmé isn’t a grand opera; it’s an opéra comique, a very different kettle of eels.
Grand opéra, you will remember, O Best Beloved, is a serious work in five (sometimes four) acts, sung throughout; often on a historical theme; with plenty of spectacle, impressive orchestral and choral forces, virtuoso singing, and at least one ballet, usually in the third act. Typical stories include revolutions, popular uprisings, massacres, executions, excommunications, and natural disasters. The best-known today are probably Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1829) and Verdi’s Don Carlos (1867). The best include Meyerbeer’s Huguenots (1836) and Prophète (1849), and Halévy’s Juive (1835).
Auber's grand opera La muette de Portici (1828) - with erupting volcano
Opéra comique – the form performed at the theatre of the same name – contains both singing and spoken dialogue. It is lighter than grand opera, but not necessarily comic. Some are indeed light-hearted comedies: Boieldieu’s Dame blanche (1825), Auber’s Fra Diavolo (1830), Donizetti’s Fille du regiment (1839). Some have serious plots, or even deaths, but end happily: Herold’s Zampa (1831) and Pré-aux-clercs (1832), Auber’s Haydée (1847). And the rare one ends unhappily: Auber’s Manon Lescaut (1856). Nothing, though, to shock the bourgeoisie; this was a family theatre, attended by respectable matrons and daughters.
By the end of the 19th century, the opéra-comique had evolved into something more serious, and often sung-through. The best-known today is Bizet’s Carmen (1875), which shocked audiences. The heroine dies – violently – and the characters are smugglers, gypsies, bull-fighters, and other lowlifes. (Several Massenet works, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande , and Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-bleue  were also first performed at the Opéra-Comique.)
And Lakmé is very much an opéra comique, in its classical form.
For a start, it was performed at the Opéra-Comique, and was one of the biggest successes since the glory days of Auber – thanks, Arthur Pougin wrote,
It carried on the opéra-comique tradition, rather than rebelling against it like Bizet, with his cry of “No more Dame blanche!”
Camille Bellaigue (“Les Époques de la musique – L’Opéra-Comique”, Revue des Deux Mondes, 1905) wrote that Delibes’ score is infinitely less rich, and weaker than Carmen, but truer to the tone of opéra-comique.
- « Pas une seule fois elle ne dépasse le caractère, ou le demi-caractère du genre. »
Lagenevais (Revue des Deux Mondes, 14 July 1883) places Delibes squarely in the line of Auber, the genre’s most famous practitioner.
- « C’est le même art de convention, subtil, délicat, habile, historié, émaillé selon le goût régnant. … C’est la tradition de Boieldieu, d’Herold, d’Adam, d’Auber et d’Halévy, tradition pure et simple que l’auteur a depuis modifiée suivant son tempérament et l’esprit de réforme applicable au genre. Plus prés d’Halévy dans Jean de Nivelle, plus voisin d’Auber dans Lakmé, il vous le rappelle par la grâce et les élégances de son écriture, pour l’abondance du motif, que nous lui reprocherions de ne point creuser assez, — un Auber plus en surface et moins les grandes envolées de la Muette. »
More, the tune for the market chorus in Act II is lifted straight from the one in Auber’s Muette de Portici. (Compare here and here.) The comic quintet that reminded a fuming Forman of Gilbert and Sullivan is also in the tradition of Auber. (Like, for example, this.)
And it’s in the opéra-comique sub-genre of stories about the British in India , and a wider genre of French opera – both grand and comique – set in India and other exotic climes .
 For example, Auber’s Dieu et la bayadère (1830), Halévy’s Fée aux roses (1849) and Jaguarita l’indienne (1855), David’s Perle du Brésil (1851), Bizet’s Pearl Fishers (1863), Meyerbeer’s Africaine (1865), and Massenet’s Roi de Lahore (1877).
Lakmé brought Delibes – hitherto known as a composer of ballets and Offenbachian opéra-bouffe – success. He was elected to the Académie des beaux-arts, replacing Victor Massé. He had made his name.
The opera soon travelled around the world. Every coloratura soprano wanted to show off her voice in the Bell Song. (Today, Offenbach’s Doll Song, from Les contes d’Hoffmann, has replaced it in concerts.)
The post-war world has had less time for it. True, it’s been a vehicle for star sopranos like Joan Sutherland, and British Airways hijacked the Flower Duet. But the work itself has largely fallen from the repertoire.
It’s towards the tail end of the 200 most performed operas in the world, sandwiched between Ullmann’s Kaiser von Atlantis and Ades’ Powder her face. If you want to see it in 2018/19, you’ll have to visit Oman or Bulgaria.
I saw it at the Sydney Opera House in 2006, conducted by Richard Bonynge, in a colourful, Hergé-inspired production.
Listening to the 1967 Joan Sutherland recording, it’s easy to see why the opera charmed, and why it fell from the repertoire. It’s a pretty opera, but not really a dramatic one.
Lakme Opera By DelibesThe music is lovely. There’s the Flower Duet, five minutes of blissful soprano and mezzo canoodling. There’s the Bell Song, of course. (I do, though, prefer the sinuous conspiracy chorus that follows.) There are some great tunes; Gérald’s aria “Fantaisie aux divins mensonges”, or the phrases “Oublier que je t’ai vue” and ” C’est le dieu de la jeunesse” in the Act I love duet. The orchestral writing throughout is refined, sometimes using « exotic » instruments like tambourines and triangles.
But it’s pretty soft-focused. It lacks that vulgar little thing called “go”. With (or for) all its grace and elegance, it’s closer to the world of Auber or Messager, than to Massenet, Meyerbeer, or even Bizet.
The story is, as critics like Bellaigue and Jullien (Musiciens d’aujourd’hui, II) observed, L’Africaine