Léo Delibes

Clément Philibert Léo Delibes (French: [klemɑ̃ filibɛʁ leo dəlib]; 21 February 1836 – 16 January 1891) was a French composer of the Romantic era (1815–1910), who specialised in ballets, operas, and other works for the stage. His most notable works include the ballets Coppélia (1870) and Sylvia (1876), as well as the operas Le roi l'a dit (1873) and Lakmé (1883).

Léo Delibes
Delibes Leo Luckhard
Clément Philibert Léo Delibes

21 February 1836
Died16 January 1891 (aged 54)
Paris, France

Life and career

Delibes was born in Saint-Germain-du-Val, now part of La Flèche (Sarthe), France, in 1836; his father was a mailman, and his mother a talented amateur musician. His grandfather had been an opera singer. He was raised mainly by his mother and uncle following his father's early death. In 1871, at the age of 35, the composer married Léontine Estelle Denain. His brother Michel Delibes migrated to Spain; he was the grandfather of Spanish writer Miguel Delibes.

Starting in 1847, Delibes studied composition at the Paris Conservatoire as a student of Adolphe Adam. A year later he began taking voice lessons, though he would end up a much better organ player than singer. He held positions as a rehearsal accompanist and chorus master at the Théâtre Lyrique, as second chorus master at the Paris Opéra (in 1864), and as organist at Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot (1865–71). The first of his many operettas was Deux sous de charbon, ou Le suicide de Bigorneau ("Two sous-worth of coal"), written in 1856 for the Folies-Nouvelles.

Excerpt from Delibes' score: The first few measures of Pizzicato from Sylvia

A ceremonial cantata, Algers, for Napoleon III on the theme of Algiers, brought him to official attention; a collaboration with Ludwig Minkus resulted, in which Delibes composed music jointly for the ballet La source (1866), which brought him into the milieu of ballet. In 1867 Delibes composed the divertissement Le jardin animé for a revival of the Joseph Mazilier/Adolphe Adam ballet Le corsaire. He wrote a mass, his Messe brève, and composed operettas almost yearly and occasional music for the theater, such as dances and antique airs for the 1882 revival of Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse, the play that Verdi had turned into Rigoletto.

In 1870 Delibes gained notoriety with the success of his ballet Coppélia; its title referred to a mechanical dancing doll that distracts a village swain from his beloved and appears to come to life. His other ballet is Sylvia (1876).

Never in robust health, Delibes died little more than a month before his 55th birthday. He was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.

Delibes was made a Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur in 1877.


It has been suggested that Delibes also wrote the ballet music for Gounod's Faust, which had been inserted ten years after the original performance of the opera.[1]

Of Delibes's various operas, the last and most important completed work was the lush orientalizing Lakmé (1883), which contains the famous coloratura showpiece known as the Légende du Paria or Bell Song ("Où va la jeune Indoue?") and The Flower Duet ("Sous le dôme épais"), a barcarolle that was later used in British Airways commercials. At the time, his operas impressed Tchaikovsky enough for the composer to rate Delibes more highly than Brahms—although this may seem faint praise when one considers that the Russian composer considered Brahms "a giftless bastard."[2]

His work is known to have been a great influence on composers such as Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Drigo and Tchaikovsky. His ballet Sylvia was of special interest to Tchaikovsky, who wrote of Delibes' score: "... what charm, what wealth of melody! It brought me to shame, for had I known of this music, I would have never written Swan Lake."

See also


  1. ^ E. Johnson: "Gounod or Delibes? - authorship of the ballet music in Faust", Opera (England) 42:276 Mar 1991
  2. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas, Lexicon of Musical Invective (1953), p. 73. Quoted from a diary entry for October 9, 1886.
Cited sources

External links

Au Printemps

Au Printemps (English: "In Spring") can refer to:

Au Printemps (album), a 1958 album by Jacques Brel

"Au printemps", a song on that album

"Au printemps", an 1865 song by Charles Gounod, see List of compositions by Charles Gounod

"Au printemps", an 1867 song by Léo Delibes, see List of compositions by Léo Delibes


Coppélia (sometimes subtitled: The Girl With The Enamel Eyes) is a comic ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to the music of Léo Delibes, with libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter. Nuitter's libretto and mise-en-scène was based upon two stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) and Die Puppe (The Doll). In Greek, κοπελιά means girl, young lady. Coppélia premiered on 25 May 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial l'Opéra, with the 16-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi in the principal role of Swanhilda and ballerina Eugénie Fiocre playing the part of Frantz en travestie. The costumes were designed by Paul Lormier and Alfred Albert, the scenery by Charles-Antoine Cambon (Act I, scene 1; Act II, scene 1), and Édouard Desplechin and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act I, scene 2).

The ballet's first flush of success was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Paris (which also led to the early death of Giuseppina Bozzacchi, on her 17th birthday), but eventually it became the most-performed ballet at the Opéra.

Modern-day productions are traditionally derived from the revivals staged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg in the late 19th century. Petipa's choreography was documented in the Stepanov method of choreographic notation at the turn of the 20th century. These notations were later used to stage the St. Petersburg version for such companies as the Vic-Wells Ballet (precursor of today's Royal Ballet).

Ernest Fanelli

Ernest Fanelli (1860–1917) was a French composer of Italian descent who is best known for sparking a controversy about the origins of Impressionist music when his composition Tableaux Symphoniques was first performed in 1912. George Antheil asserted that Fanelli was "one of the greatest inventors and musical iconoclasts of all time", but he remains an obscure figure.

Flower Duet

The "Flower Duet" (French: Duo des fleurs / Sous le dôme épais) is a famous duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé, first performed in Paris in 1883. The duet takes place in act 1 of the three-act opera, between characters Lakmé, the daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant Mallika, as they go to gather flowers by a river.The duet is frequently used in advertisements and films and is popular as a concert piece. It was adapted for the track "Aria" in the British Airways "face" advertisements of the 1980s by Yanni and Malcolm McLaren. More recently, it has been heard in films such as Meet the Parents and True Romance and television shows including The Simpsons.

Giuseppina Bozzacchi

Giuseppina Bozzacchi (23 November 1853 – 23 November 1870) was an Italian ballerina, noted for creating the role of Swanhilda in Léo Delibes' ballet Coppélia at the age of 16 while dancing for the Paris Opera Ballet.

Bozzacchi, who was born in Milan, had come to Paris to study with Mme Dominique. The choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon and the director of the Académie Royale de Musique, Émile Perrin, had been searching for a suitable Swanhilda, after deciding that none of the ballerinas previously considered – Léontine Beaugrand and Angelina Fioretti – were suitable, while Adèle Grantzow, the favorite ballerina of Saint-Léon, had started to prepare the role with choreography in 1868 but then fell seriously ill. In 1869 they even asked the composer, Léo Delibes, to seek out a suitable Swanhilda on his trip to Italy. He returned empty-handed; in the meantime, Saint-Léon and Perrin had discovered 16-year-old Bozzacchi.

She created the Swanhilda role on 25 May 1870 in the presence of Emperor Napoleon III. She repeated her success in the following weeks. In July an international dispute broke out between France and Prussia over the succession to the Spanish throne, and on 19 July France declared war. Bozzacchi danced Swanhilda for the 18th and last time on 31 August, when the Paris Opéra closed for the duration of the Franco-Prussian War. The Opéra had stopped paying salaries, and Bozzacchi, weakened by lack of food, became ill. She contracted smallpox and fever, and died on the morning of her 17th birthday. She was buried at Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.

Jean de Nivelle

Jean de Nivelle is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille. It premiered on 6 March 1880 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, with the French tenor, Jean-Alexandre Talazac in the title role. The story is based on the historical figure Jean de Nivelle, a member of the House of Montmorency who refused to join with his father, Jean II de Montmorency, in supporting Louis XI in his war against Charles the Bold.

Although originally described as an opéra comique, in many respects it is close to the grand opera tradition typified by Meyerbeer. The opera proved popular in its day, with 100 performances in the year following its premiere. Between 1881 and 1882, it was also performed at La Monnaie in Brussels, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen, Budapest, Vienna, and Stockholm. Then, it disappeared from the repertoire and was only revived in Paris in 1908, at the Théâtre Lyrique Municipal de la Gaité.

Franz Liszt in 1881, in his late sparse style, began to compose a free fantasy on the orchestral introduction to the opera, followed by the introduction to the ballad itself. But the manuscript is incomplete and unfinished. It is numbered S698 in Liszt's catalogue of works, and is the only operatic fantasy Liszt contemplated on themes by Delibes.

Kassya (opera)

Kassya is a French-language opera in 4 acts and 5 tableaux by Léo Delibes to a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille after a novella by Sacher-Masoch. Unfinished on Delibes death in 1891, it was completed and orchestrated by Jules Massenet in 1893.

La source (Balanchine)

La Source is a ballet made on New York City Ballet by its founding balletmaster (and co-founder) George Balanchine. The premiere took place on November 23, 1968, at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center.

Balanchine's had previously made a pas de deux to music from Léo Delibes' Sylvia in 1950; he expanded this into a divertissement in 1965. The final version uses music from Delibes' ballets La source and Sylvia and choreography from the earlier pas de deux and divertissement.

La source (Saint-Léon)

La source (The Spring) is a ballet in three acts/four scenes with a score composed by Léo Delibes and Ludwig Minkus (Minkus: Act I & Act III-Scene 2/Delibes: Act II & Act III-Scene 1) which was premiered in Paris in 1866 with choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon. In 1878 in Vienna it was called Naïla, die Quellenfee (Naïla, the Waternymph).


Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille.

The score, written from 1881–1882, was first performed on 14 April 1883 by the Opéra-Comique at the (second) Salle Favart in Paris, with stage decorations designed by Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Act I), Eugène Louis Carpezat and (Joseph-)Antoine Lavastre (Act II), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act III). Set in British India in the mid-19th century, Lakmé is based on Théodore Pavie's story "Les babouches du Brahamane" and novel Le Mariage de Loti by Pierre Loti.The opera includes the popular Flower Duet (Sous le dôme épais) for a soprano and mezzo-soprano, performed in Act 1 by Lakmé, the daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant Mallika. The name Lakmé is the French rendition of Sanskrit Lakshmi, the name of the Hindu Goddess of Wealth. The opera's most famous aria is the Bell Song (L'Air des clochettes) in Act 2.

Like other French operas of the period, Lakmé captures the ambience of the Orient seen through Western eyes, which was periodically in vogue during the latter part of the 19th century and in line with other operatic works such as Bizet's The Pearl Fishers and Massenet's Le roi de Lahore. The subject of the opera was suggested by Gondinet as a vehicle for the American soprano Marie van Zandt.The Indian fashion brand Lakmé, established in 1952 by the Tata Group and now owned by Hindustan Unilever, is named after the opera.

Le Corsaire

Le Corsaire is a ballet typically presented in three acts, with a libretto originally created by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges loosely based on the poem The Corsair by Lord Byron. Originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier to the music of Adolphe Adam, it was first presented by the ballet of the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra in Paris on 23 January 1856. All modern productions of Le Corsaire are derived from the revivals staged by the Ballet Master Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg throughout the mid to late 19th century.

The ballet has many celebrated passages which are often excerpted from the full-length work and performed independently: the scene Le Jardin animé, the Pas d’esclave, the Pas de trois des odalisques, and the so-called Le Corsaire pas de deux, which is among classical ballet's most famous and performed excerpts.

Le roi l'a dit

Le roi l'a dit (The King Has Spoken) is an opéra comique in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet. It is a lively comedy, remarkably requiring 14 singers – six men and eight women. The libretto had first been offered in 1871 to Offenbach; the title also went through various permutations (Le Talon rouge, Si le Roi le savait, Le Roi le sait) before settling on its final name. The 1885 revival brought further modifications to the libretto.

Les Aventures de Pélée

Les Aventures de Pélée (The Adventures of Peleus; Russian: Приключения Пелея) is a ballet in three acts and five scenes with choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Ludwig Minkus, with additional music adapted from works by Léo Delibes. The libretto by Marius Petipa is derived from the Greek Myth concerning the Goddess Thetis and the circumstances surrounding her marriage, arranged by Jupiter (or Zeus), to the mortal Peleus.

It was first presented by the Imperial Ballet on January 30 [O.S. January 18] 1876 at the Imperial Bolshoi Kammeny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Eugeniia Sokolova (as the Goddess Thetis), Pavel Gerdt (as Peleus), Lyubov Savitskaya (as Cupid), Mariia Gorshenkova (as Venus), Christian Johansson (as Jupiter), Lev Ivanov (as Adonis), and Platon Karsavin (as Triton).

List of ballets by Léo Delibes

This is a list of ballets by Léo Delibes (1836–1891).

La Source jointly with Ludwig Minkus, choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon, libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter, premiere November 12, 1866, the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier)

Coppélia, choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon, libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter, premiere May 25, 1870, the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier)

Sylvia, original choreography by Louis Mérante, libretto by Jules Barbier and Baron de Reinach, premiere June 14, 1876, the Paris Opera (Palais Garnier)

List of compositions by Léo Delibes

This is a list of works written by the French composer Léo Delibes (1836–1891).

List of operas and operettas by Léo Delibes

This is list of operas and operettas written by the French composer Léo Delibes (1836–1891).

Maurice Emmanuel

Maurice Emmanuel (2 May 1862 – 14 December 1938) was a French composer of classical music born in Bar-sur-Aube, a small town in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeastern France. It was there where he first heard his grandfather's printing press which according to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, first gave him the feeling of rhythm.Brought up in Dijon, Marie François Maurice Emmanuel became a chorister at Beaune cathedral after his family moved to the city in 1869. According to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, he was influenced by the brass bands on the streets of Beaune and by the "songs of the grape pickers which imprinted melodies in his memory so different from all the classical music he was taught in the academy of music." Subsequently, he went to Paris, and he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where his composition teacher was Léo Delibes. However, Delibes' strong disapproval of his early modal compositions (Cello Sonata, Op. 2, Sonatinas No. 1, Op. 4 and No. 2, Op. 5) caused a rift between them and subsequently caused him to study with Ernest Guiraud also at the Conservatoire. At the Conservatoire he came to know Claude Debussy who was also a pupil there. In addition, he attended the Conservatoire classes of César Franck, about whom he wrote a short book in 1930 (César Franck: Etude Critique).

Emmanuel pursued a notable academic career. He wrote a treatise in 1895 on the music of Ancient Greece, and was appointed professor of the history of music at the Conservatoire in 1909. His students included Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. Emmanuel's interests included folksong, Oriental music, and exotic modes — his use of these modes in various of his works had appalled Delibes, who had vetoed his entering for the Prix de Rome. Other appointments included choirmaster at the church of Sainte-Clotilde from 1904 to 1907, assisted by Émile Poillot, during the tenure of organist Charles Tournemire.

The compositions of Emmanuel, seldom heard today even in France, include operas after Aeschylus (Prométhée enchaîné and Salamine) as well as symphonies and string quartets. Probably the creations of his most often performed now are his six sonatines for solo piano, which (like many of his other pieces) demonstrate his eclectic academic interests. The first of the sonatines draws on the music of Burgundy, while the second incorporates birdsong, the third uses a Burgundian folk tune in its finale, and the fourth is subtitled en divers modes hindous ("in various Hindu modes").

Spyridon Samaras

Spyridon-Filiskos Samaras (also Spyros, Spiro Samara; Greek: Σπυρίδων Σαμάρας) (29 November [O.S. 17 November] 1861 – 7 April [O.S. 25 March] 1917) was a Greek composer particularly admired for his operas who was part of the generation of composers that heralded the works of Giacomo Puccini. His compositions were praised worldwide during his lifetime and he is arguably the most internationally appreciated Greek composer before Dimitri Mitropoulos. He is best known for composing the Olympic hymn.

Sylvia (ballet)

Sylvia, originally Sylvia, ou La nymphe de Diane, is a full-length ballet in two or three acts, first choreographed by Louis Mérante to music by Léo Delibes in 1876. Sylvia is a typical classical ballet in many respects, yet it has many interesting features that make it unique. Sylvia is notable for its mythological Arcadian setting, creative choreographies, expansive sets and, above all, its remarkable score.

The ballet's origins are in Tasso's 1573 play Aminta, which provides the basic plot of Delibes' work. Jules Barbier and Baron de Reinach adapted this for the Paris Opera. The piano arrangement was composed in 1876 and the orchestral suite was done in 1880.When Sylvia premiered on Wednesday, June 14, 1876, at the Palais Garnier, it went largely unnoticed. In fact, the first seven productions of Sylvia were not commercially successful. It was the 1952 revival, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton, that popularized the ballet. Ashton's success set the stage for the 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2009 productions, all of which were based on his 1952 choreography.


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