top of page

Jules Massenet

The king of Lahore

Joan Sutherland - live 1977

Le roi de Lahore ("The king of Lahore") is an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet. It was first performed at the Palais Garnier in Paris on 27 April 1877 in costumes designed by Eugène Lacoste and settings designed by Jean Émile Daran (Act I, scene 1), Auguste-Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Act I, scene 2; Act V), Louis Chéret (Act II), Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act III), Antoine Lavastre and Eugène Louis Carpezat (Act IV).

Le roi de Lahore is Massenet's third extant opera and was his first major success in Paris, spawning performances across Europe and leading to his place as one of the most popular composers of his time.

Within a year of the premiere the opera was performed, for instance, in Turin, Rome, Bologna, and Venice. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, presented it in London in 1879, and in 1906 it premiered in Monte Carlo. The US premiere took place in 1883 at the French Opera House in New Orleans.

By the time of the Metropolitan Opera premiere in 1924, however, Le roi de Lahore in particular, and Massenet's style of romantic opera in general, faded in fashion so much that it received only six performances and has never been revived there since.

Contemporary performances include a revival by the Vancouver Opera in 1977 starring Joan Sutherland and conducted by Richard Bonynge. The same production was mounted at the San Francisco Opera and subsequently recorded. A more recent revival occurred at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice in 2005 under the baton of Marcello Viotti, a performance of which was released on CD and DVD.



("The king of Lahore")

Opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a
French libretto by Louis Gallet.


Sita, priestess of Indra                      -soprano
Kaled, the king's servant                  -mezzo-soprano
Alim, King of Lahore                         -tenor
Scindia, Minister to Alim                 - baritone
Timour, high priest of Indra           -bass 
Indra, an Indian deity                       -bass  
A chief                                                   -baritone  
Soldiers, People, Priests,
Priestesses, Celestial Beings;
(Ballet) Apsaras, Nymphs.


Place: Lahore, a city of Pakistan.

Premiere Cast, 27 April 1877



The citizens of Lahore gather at the temple to pray for divine protection against the Moslem invaders, and receive encouragement from Timour, the high priest. Scindia, minister of King Alim is in love with Sita, his niece, who is also a priestess at the temple. Scindia asks Timour to release Sita from her vows, and points out that she has been meeting a young man. In Indra's sanctuary, Scindia gets Sita to admit her interest in this young stranger, but she refuses to name him; Scindia accuses her of sacrilege, and the priests demand that she sing the evening prayer to lure the young man. A secret door opens and a young man appears: it is King Alim who confesses his love and asks for Sita's hand in marriage. Timour demands that the king expiate his actions by leading his army against the Muslims. Scindia schemes to arrange an ambush and kill the king.

Le roi de Lahore - Jules Massenet - Joan Sutherland

Act I - O Timour! Tu me crois coupable 

Sitâ - Joan Sutherland
Alim - Luis Lima
Scindia - Sherrill Milnes

National Philharmonic orchestra and chorus
Richard Bonynge

Jules Massenet – LE ROI DE LAHORE – Act 1 Finale: ‘Le bronze a vibré’

Sitâ, priestress of Indra: Joan Sutherland
Kaled, young slave: Huguette Tourangeau
Alim, king of Lahore: Luis Lima
Scindia, his prime minister: Sherrill Milnes
Timour, high priest: James Morris
London Voices

Conductor : Richard Bonynge
National Philharmonic Orchestra
London, 1979


At the king's encampment in the Thol desert, where Sita has followed and pitched camp near the king as she awaits his return from the fighting. The soldiers have been routed. Scindia gets them to join with him to usurp the throne. Wounded, Alim dies in Sita's arms.

Joan Sutherland Sings the Act 2 Duet from Le Roi de Lahore


In the Paradise of Indra there are songs and dances by the apsaras. Alim’s soul arrives but he admits that he misses the presence of Sita. Indra takes pity and agrees to restore Alim to life – as the humblest of beings – for as long as Sita lives.


Jules Massenet – LE ROI DE LAHORE – Act III Finale:
‘Quel est celui qui vient?

Alim, king of Lahore: Luis Lima
Indra, Hindu god: Nicolai Ghiaurov
London Voices

Conductor : Richard Bonynge
National Philharmonic Orchestra
London, 1979


Alim awakens back in Lahore at the entrance to the royal palace where the crowd is gathering for Scindia's coronation. Scindia enters, on his way to persuade Sita to marry him, but a vengeful vision blocks his path. Alim appears to the onlookers like a poor madman, but Timour say that he must be a visionary inspired by god.


Massenet - "Grand scene de Indra" - Le Roi de Lahore
Indra: Federico Sacchi
Alim: Giuseppe Gipali

LE ROI DE LAHORE - Act IV - Finale "Aux troupes du Sultan"
Patrick Fournillier, conductor Bordeaux, 1999


Sita has sought refuge in Indra's sanctuary having fled forced marriage with Scindia. Alim is admitted to the sanctuary by Timour and the lovers meet again. Scindia arrives and threatens them both; Sita stabs herself and at once Alim again becomes a spirit, thus foiling the designs of Scindia. Sita and Alim are united in celestial happiness.

La Roi de Lahore - Jules Massenet 
Rolando Villazon - Voix qui me remplissez

bottom of page