Leo Delibes
 

Lakme

"Lakmé" - Opera by Leo Delibes § Summer Opera Festival "Opera under the Stars"

Few music-lovers today know much of Le0 Delibes's (1836-1891) music outside of his two charming ballet scores, Sylvia and Coppelia, and, of course, Lakme — or at least its Bell Song. Despite the color and good, old-fashioned drama of its setting, the opera is given today, outside of France, only as an occasional vehicle for a famous and pretty coloratura soprano. In France, however, it remains popular, having received some 1500 performances at the Opera Comique in Paris, since its premiere in 1883. On that occasion a Brooklyn-born coloratura, Marie van Zandt, sang it with such success that the role, for some time, was identified with her. However, a list of those sopranos who have essayed the role would include practically every great coloratura up to almost the present day, including Adelina Patti, Marcella Sembrich, Luisa Tetrazzini, Amelita Galli-Curci, and Lily Pons—not to mention quite a few who had no particular business trying.
 

Roles

LAKME

Opera in three acts by Leo Delibes with libretto in French by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille generally said to be based on Pierre Loti’s Le Mariage de Loti but bearing

only a faint resemblance to that novel

 

Nilakantha, a Brahman priest
Lakme, his daughter
Mallika, her slave

Ellen, English lady
Rose, English lady

Mistress Benson, their governess
Gerald, an English officer
Frederick, officer friend of Gérald


 

Time: late igth century
Place: India

First performance at Paris, April 14, 1883
 

Characters

Nilakantha:
Bass‐baritone. A Brahmin priest, father of Lakmé. Disapproves of her relationship with an English officer. Created (1883) by Mons. Cobalet.
 

Lakme:

Soprano. Daughter of the fanatical Brahmin priest Nilakantha. In love with a young English officer, Gérald, much disapproved of by her father. When Gérald is persuaded to return to his regiment, Lakmé realizes she has lost him and takes poison. Aria: Où va la jeune Hindoue? (‘Where is the young Indian girl?’—the famous Bell Song ). Created ( 1883 ) by Marie van Zandt.
 

Mallika:

Mezzo-soprano. Slave of Lakmé (daughter of the Brahmin priest). Created (1883) by Mme Frandin.

Misrress Bentson:
Mezzo-soprano. English governess living in India. Created (1883) by Mme Pierron.

Geralds: Tenor. English officer in India, who trespasses into a sacred grove, sees Lakme and falls in love with her, thus earning the wrath of her father, a Brahmin priest. Despite his love for Lakme, Gerald, reminded of his duty as a soldier, returns to his regiment. Lakme takes poison. Created (1883) by Jean-Alexandre Talazac.

Frederic:

Baritone. An English officer, who reminds his friend Gerald of his duty as a soldier. Created (1883) by Mons. Barr6.

Synopsis

ACT I
 

The story takes place in nineteenth-century India, whereas everyone knows—the British were riding high, wide, and handsome. When the opera opens, the priest Nilakantha is in his sacred garden exhorting his followers to await the day when the British shall be driven from the land. Off-stage, comes the voice of his daughter, Lakme, and gradually her voice grows stronger, as she comes on stage and leads the men in their prayer to the god Siva.
 

When the prayer is over, everyone leaves the garden excepting Lakm6 and her slave Mallika, who, together, oblige with a charming barcarolle in thirds. Because they are planning to bathe, Lakm6 removes her jewels and places them on a bench before shoving off in a boat with Mallika.
 

Now there are visitors of another sort. They are two British officers—Gerald and Frederick—their friends from home, Ellen and Rose, and, as a chaperone, the young ladies' governess, Mrs. Benson. All five break into the garden, even though they know they have no business there, to admire the beautiful white flowers. These flowers—naturalists call them datura stramonium—ate poisonous, and on the warnings of Frederick the party does not touch them. We shall hear more of them in the last act.
 

Happening on Lakme’s jewels, Gerald is so enchanted that he stays on to make a drawing of them when the others leave. Here he has his charming aria Prendre le dessin d’un bijou.
 

Naturally, as Gerald is the leading tenor, Lakme returns and finds him there. And as Lakme is the leading soprano, the two must fall in love at first sight. And as they fall in love at first sight, a love duet must be sung. But this love duet is a little different, for Lakme keeps warning Gerald that if he is found in the garden, he may very well be killed. At first Gerald cannot take this warning seriously. After all, he is an officer in the army of Queen Victoria. But finally Lakme persuades him to leave, and it is only just in time. For Nilakantha returns with his followers and, outraged by the desecration of the holy garden, vows that the man who was there must die. The other Hindus take up the cry of vengeance.
 

Lakmé by Léo Delibes. ACT 1
OPERA AT RUTGERS Mason Gross School of the Arts
Published on Apr 3, 2015

Conductor: Kynan Johns
Stage Director: E. Loren Meeker
Director: Pamela Gilmore
Costume Designer: Candida Nicholas
Chereographer: Sudha

Lakmé: Kaitlyn Davis
Gérald: Alexander Wook Lee
Frédéric: Clayton Mathews
Mallika: Sahoko Sato
Hadji: Chris Georgetti
Nilakantha: Paul An  
Rose: Eugenia Forteza
Ellen: Taylor Kurilew
Mistress Bentson: Alison Mingle

ACT II
 

It is a feast day for the Hindus, and our various British friends are at the bustling bazaar to watch and be amused. Mrs. Benson has her watch stolen; Rose and Ellen are excited by all the activity; and the two officers are having their last good time, for tomorrow they are off to the wars. Gerald admits that he has seen the charming young priestess Lakme, and the others are quite curious about her, in a superior British sort of way. There is also a fine ballet, danced by the natives.
 

Presently the vengeful priest Nilakantha enters, disguised as a beggar. He seems to have learned that Gerald was in the garden and that he has fallen in love with Lakme. He demands that his daughter sing, and she obliges with the famous Song. It is the legend of a Hindu maiden and how she attracted the great god Vishnu with her bells. Nilakantha hopes that Lakme’s singing will attract Gerald so that he may murder him. As British soldiers march by, to drums and fifes, Nilakantha gathers his followers, and they hide to surprise Gerald.
 

Sure enough, Gerald appears; and in their second love duet Lakme urges him to join her in a hidden spot where she may guard him. He, however, is all for Queen and duty, and he declines this tempting invitation. He might just as well have accepted it, for now the holiest of the processions arrives, carrying the image of the goddess Dourga, and singing to it. Under cover of the excitement created by the procession, Nilakantha sneaks in, stabs Gerald, and quietly makes off. Lakme rushes over to the fallen English officer, sees that the wound is not fatal, and joyfully plans to take him to her hidden grotto to recover.
 

Lakmé by Léo Delibes. ACT 2
OPERA AT RUTGERS Mason Gross School of the Arts
Published on Apr 3, 2015

Conductor: Kynan Johns
Stage Director: E. Loren Meeker
Director: Pamela Gilmore
Costume Designer: Candida Nicholas
Chereographer: Sudha

Lakmé: Kaitlyn Davis
Gérald: Alexander Wook Lee
Frédéric: Clayton Mathews
Mallika: Sahoko Sato
Hadji: Chris Georgetti
Nilakantha: Paul An  
Rose: Eugenia Forteza
Ellen: Taylor Kurilew
Mistress Bentson: Alison Mingle

Act III

This grotto is a beautiful spot, full of lush flowers, and Gerald lies quietly on his sickbed as Lakme nurses him and sings to him. When he awakes, he is enchanted with both his surroundings and his affectionate nurse and tells us so in most persuasive musical phrases.
 

Now, off-stage, there is a chorus of Indian lovers singing as they go to a secret spring whose waters will make them forever faithful. Lakme, too, goes there, to get some of the magic water for her lover.
 

But while she is gone, Frederick comes in. He has been looking everywhere for his fellow-officer and is delighted to find him greatly improved. Their regiment, he says, is about to depart, and Gerald reacts as any British officer should: duty first. When Lakme returns, she suspects that he will not remain faithful. In the distance there is the sound of marching soldiers, and Gerald refuses the magical drink. In despair Lakme secretly takes some of the poisonous datura blossoms and eats them, just before Gerald decides to drink of the magic waters after all. But it is too late. The vengeful Nilakantha rushes in and is about to strike Gerald dead when Lakme intervenes. If the gods must have a victim, she cries, let it be herself! Only now do they see that she is dying. Gerald is heartbroken, but Nilakantha closes the opera with the ecstatic thought that his daughter will forever live with Brahma.
 

Lakmé by Léo Delibes. ACT 3
OPERA AT RUTGERS Mason Gross School of the Arts
Published on Apr 3, 2015

Conductor: Kynan Johns
Stage Director: E. Loren Meeker
Director: Pamela Gilmore
Costume Designer: Candida Nicholas
Chereographer: Sudha

Lakmé: Kaitlyn Davis
Gérald: Alexander Wook Lee
Frédéric: Clayton Mathews
Mallika: Sahoko Sato
Hadji: Chris Georgetti
Nilakantha: Paul An  
Rose: Eugenia Forteza
Ellen: Taylor Kurilew
Mistress Bentson: Alison Mingle

Lakmé, Flower duet  by Léo Delibes : Viens, Mallika... Dôme épais le jasmin. 
 

Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Elina Garanca (mezzo-soprano)
Baden-Baden Opera Gala 2007