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Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille. It was first performed on 14 April 1883 by the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Favart in Paris.

Roles

Role Voice type and range Premiere cast, 14 April 1883
Lakmé, a priestess, daughter of Nilakantha soprano (D4-E6) Marie van Zandt
Gérald, a British army officer tenor (E3-B4) Jean-Alexandre Talazac
Nilakantha, a Brahmin priest bass (G2-F♯4) Cobalet
Frédéric, officer friend of Gérald baritone (B♭2-F♯4) Barré
Mallika, slave of Lakmé mezzo-soprano Elisa 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 mezzo-soprano Pierron
Fortune teller (Un Domben) tenor Teste
A Chinese merchant tenor Davoust
Le Kouravar baritone Bernard
Chorus: Officers, ladies, merchants, Brahmins, musicians

Synopsis

Place: India
Time: Late nineteenth century, during the British Raj.

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 together the "Flower Duet". As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewellery and places it on a bench. Two British officers, Frederic and Gérald (Delibes uses Frenchified versions of the then common English names Frederick and Gerald), arrive nearby on a picnic with two British girls and their governess. The British girls see the jewellery and, impressed with it, request sketches of it; Gérald volunteers to stay and make sketches of the jewellery. He spots 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 also intrigued by him and so she sends away those who had responded to her call for help when they come to her aid. Lakmé and Gérald begin to fall in love with each other. Nilakantha returns and learns of the British officer's trespassing, vowing revenge on him for what he assumes to be an affront to Lakmé's honour.

Act 2

At a busy bazaar, Nilakantha forces Lakmé to sing (the 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 lovingly nurses him back to health.

Act 3

While Lakmé fetches sacred water that will confirm the vows of the lovers, Fréderic, Gérald's fellow British officer, appears before Gérald and reminds him of his military duty to his regiment. Gérald sadly accepts that his colleague is correct. After Lakmé returns, she senses the change in Gérald and realises 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 1

  • "À l'heure accoutumée" - Mallika, Hadji, Nilakantha, chorus
  • "Blanche Dourga" - Lakmé, Nilakantha, chorus
  • "Lakmé, c'est toi qui nous protège!" - Lakmé, Mallika, Hadji, Nilakantha
  • "Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs ... Dôme épais, le jasmin" - Lakmé, Mallika
  • "Miss Rose, Miss Ellen" - Miss Ellen, Miss Rose, Mistress Bentson, Gérald, Frédéric
  • "Quand une femme est si jolie" - Gérald
  • "Nous commettons un sacrilège" - Lakmé, Mallika
  • "Prendre le dessin d'un bijou" - Gérald
  • "Non! Je ne veux pas toucher" - Lakmé, Mallika
  • "Les fleurs me paraissent plus belles" - Lakmé
  • "Ah! Mallika! Mallika!" - Lakmé, Mallika, Hadji
  • "D'où viens-tu? Que veux-tu?" - Lakmé, Gérald
  • "Viens! Là! Là!" - Lakmé, Hadji, Nilakantha, chorus

Act 2

  • "Allons, avant que midi sonne" - Miss Rose, Mistress Bentson, Frédéric, Le Kouravar, a Chinese merchant, fortune teller, chorus
  • "Airs de danse: Persian" - chorus
  • "Airs de danse: Coda avec Choeurs" - chorus
  • "C'est un pauvre qui mendie" - Lakmé, Nilakantha
  • "Ah! C'est de ta douleur" - Lakmé, Nilakantha
  • "Ah!... Par les dieux inspires... Où va la jeune Hindoue" - Lakmé, Nilakantha, chorus
  • "La rage me dévore" - Lakmé, Gérald, Frédéric, Nilakantha, chorus
  • "Au milieu des chants d'allegresse" - Lakmé, Nilakantha, chorus
  • "Lakmé! Lakmé! C'est toi!" - Lakmé, Gérald
  • "O Dourga, toi qui renais" - Lakmé, Miss Ellen, Miss Rose, Mistress Bentson, Gérald, Hadji, Frédéric, Nilakantha, chorus

Act 3

  • "Sous le ciel tout étoilé" - Lakmé
  • "Quel vague souvenir alourdit ma pensée?" - Lakmé, Gérald
  • "Lakmé! Lakmé! Ah! Viens dans la forêt profonde" - Gérald
  • "Là, je pourrai t'entendre" - Lakmé, Gérald, chorus
  • "Vivant!" - Gérald, Frédéric
  • "Ils allaient deux à deux" - Lakmé, Gérald, chorus
  • "C'est lui! C'est lui!" - Lakmé, Gérald, Nilakantha
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