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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] The subject of the opera was suggested by Gondinet as a vehicle for the American soprano Marie van Zandt.[2]

The Indian fashion brand Lakmé, established in 1952 by the Tata Group and now owned by Hindustan Unilever, is named after the opera.

Performance history

Following its premiere at the Opéra Comique in 1883, Lakmé reached its 500th performance there on 23 June 1909 and 1,000th on 13 May 1931. A series of performances took place at the Théâtre Gaîté Lyrique Paris in 1908, with Alice Verlet, David Devriès and Félix Vieuille.[4]


Role Voice type Premiere cast,[4]
14 April 1883
(Conductor: Jules Danbé)
Lakmé, a priestess, daughter of Nilakantha coloratura soprano Marie van Zandt
Gérald, a British army officer tenor Jean-Alexandre Talazac
Nilakantha, a Brahmin priest bass Cobalet
Frédéric, officer friend of Gérald baritone 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


Place: India
Time: Late nineteenth century during the British Raj. Many Hindus have been forced by the British to practise their religion in secret.

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 the "Flower Duet". As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench. A party of British officers, Frederic and Gérald, arrive nearby while on a picnic with two British girls and their governess. The British girls see the jewelry and request sketches; Gérald volunteers to stay and make sketches of the jewelry. He sees 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 intrigued and so she sends away those who had responded to her call for help when they come to her rescue. Lakmé and Gérald begin to fall in love with each other. Nilakantha returns and learns of the British officer's trespassing and vows revenge on him for his affront to Lakmé's honor.

Act 2

At a 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 nurses him back to health.

Act 3

While Lakmé fetches sacred water that will confirm the vows of the lovers, Fréderic, a fellow British officer, appears before Gérald and reminds him of his duty to his regiment. After Lakmé returns, she senses the change in Gérald and realises that she has lost him. She dies with honour, rather than live with dishonor, killing herself by eating the poisonous datura leaf.


Original poster for Lakmé

In conventional form and pleasant style, but given over to the fashion for exoticism, the delicate orchestration and melodic richness earned Delibes a success with audiences.[5] The passionate elements of the opera are given warm and expressive music, while the score in general is marked by subtle harmonic colours and deft orchestration. Oriental colour is used in prayers, incantations, dances and the scene in the market.[3]

The Act 2 aria "Où va la jeune Hindoue?" (the 'Bell Song') has long been a favourite recital piece for coloratura sopranos. (Recordings of it in Italian, as "Dov'e l'indiana bruna?", also exist.)

In recent years, the Flower Duet in Act 1 has become familiar more widely because of its use in advertisements, in particular a British Airways commercial,[2] as well as in films.[6] The aria sung by Lakme and Mallika was adapted for the theme "Aria on air" for the British Airways "face" advertisements of the 1980s by music composers Yanni and Malcolm McLaren.[7]

Musical numbers

  • Prelude

Act 1

  • No. 1 Introduction: "À l'heure accoutumée (At the usual time)" (Nilakantha)
  • Prière: "Blanche Dourga (White Durga)" (Lakmé, Nilakantha)
  • No. 1 Bis – Scène: "Lakmé, c'est toi qui nous protège! (Lakmé, it is you who protect us!)" (Nilakantha, Lakmé)
  • No. 2 – Duetto (The Flower Duet): "Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs ... Dôme épais, le jasmin (Come Mallika, the lianas in bloom ... The jasmine forms a dense dome)" (Lakmé, Mallika)
  • Scène: "Miss Rose, Miss Ellen" (Gérald)
  • No. 3 – Quintette & couplets: "Quand une femme est si jolie (When a woman is so pretty)" (Gérald)
  • Récitatif: "Nous commettons un sacrilège (We are committing sacrilege)" (Gérald)
  • No. 4 – Air: "Prendre le dessin d'un bijou (Make a drawing of a jewel)" (Gérald)
  • No. 4 Bis – Scène: "Non! Je ne veux pas toucher (No! I do not want to touch)" (Gérald, Lakmé)
  • No. 5 – Récitatif & Strophes: "Les fleurs me paraissent plus belles (The flowers appear more beautiful to me)" (Lakmé)
  • No. 5 Bis – Récitatif: "Ah! Mallika! Mallika!" (Lakmé)
  • No. 6 – Duo: "D'où viens-tu? Que veux-tu? (Where are you from? What do you want?)" (Lakmé, Gérald)
  • No. 6 Bis – Scène: "Viens! Là! Là! (Come! There! There!)" (Nilakantha, Lakmé)

Act 2

  • Entr'acte
  • No. 7 – Choeur & Scène du marche: "Allons, avant que midi sonne (Come before noon sounds)"
  • No. 7 Bis – Récitatif: "Enfin! Nous aurons du silence! (Finally! We will have silence!)"
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Introduction
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Terana
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Rektah
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Persian
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Coda avec Choeurs
  • No. 8 – Airs de danse: Sortie
  • Récitatif: "Voyez donc ce vieillard (So see that old man)"
  • No. 9 – Scène & Stances: "Ah! Ce vieillard encore! (Ah! That old man again!)" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)
  • No. 9 Bis – Récitatif: "Ah! C'est de ta douleur (Ah! It's your pain)" (Lakmé, Nilankantha)
  • No. 10 – Scène & Légende de la fille du Paria (Air des Clochettes/The Bell Song):
    "Ah!... Par les dieux inspires... Où va la jeune Hindoue (Ah... Inspired by the gods... Where is the Hindu girl going)" (Lakmé, Nilankantha)
  • No. 11 – Scène: "La rage me dévore (Rage consumes me)" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)
  • No. 12 – Scène & Choeur: "Au milieu des chants d'allegresse (Amid chants of cheerfulness)" (Nilankantha, Lakmé)
  • No. 12 Bis – Récitatif: "Le maître ne pense qu'à sa vengeance (The master thinks only of his revenge)"
  • No. 13 – Duo: "Lakmé! Lakmé! C'est toi! (Lakmé! Lakmé! It's you!)" (Lakmé, Gérald)
  • No. 14 – Finale: "O Dourga, toi qui renais (O Durga, you who are reborn)" (Gérald)

Act 3

  • Entr'acte
  • No. 15 – Berceuse: "Sous le ciel tout étoilé (Beneath the star-filled sky)" (Lakmé)
  • No. 15 Bis – Récitatif: "Quel vague souvenir alourdit ma pensée? (What vague memory weighs down my thought?)" (Gérald, Lakmé)
  • No. 16 – Cantilène: "Lakmé! Lakmé! Ah! Viens dans la forêt profonde (Lakmé! Lakmé! Ah! Come into the deep forest)" (Gérald)
  • No. 17 – Scène & Choeur: "Là, je pourrai t'entendre (There I will be able to hear you)" (Lakmé, Gérald)
  • No. 18 – Scène: "Vivant! (Alive!)" (Gérald)
  • No. 19 – Duo: "Ils allaient deux à deux (They went two by two)" (Lakmé, Gérald)
  • No. 20 – Finale: "C'est lui! C'est lui! (It's him! It's him!)" (Nilankantha, Lakmé, Gérald)



  1. ^ Charles P. D. Cronin and Betje Black Klier (1996), "Théodore Pavie's "Les babouches du Brahmane" and the Story of Delibes's Lakmé", Opera Quarterly 12 (4): 19–33.
  2. ^ a b c "Lakmé by Leo Delibes" on Retrieved 15 January 2011
  3. ^ a b MacDonald H., "Lakmé", The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, London and New York: Macmillan: 1997.
  4. ^ a b Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  5. ^ Lacombe H., The Keys to French Opera in the Nineteenth Century, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.
  6. ^ For example, The Hunger "'Horror! – Monsters, Witches & Vampires (Soundtrack)'". Silva America.
  7. ^ "British Airways - Face". SplendAd. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links

B major

B major (or the key of B) is a major scale based on B. The pitches B, C♯, D♯, E, F♯, G♯, and A♯ are all part of the B major scale. Its key signature has five sharps. Its relative minor is G-sharp minor, its parallel minor is B minor, and its enharmonic equivalent is C-flat major.

The B major scale is:

Although B major is usually thought of as a remote key (due to its distance from C major in the circle of fifths and its fairly large number of sharps), Frédéric Chopin regarded its scale as the easiest of all to play, as its black notes fit the natural positions of the fingers well; as a consequence he often assigned it first to beginning piano students, leaving the scale of C major until last because he considered it the hardest of all scales to play completely evenly (because of its complete lack of black notes).Few large-scale works in B major exist: these include Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 46. The aria "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's opera Rigoletto is in the key, as is the "Flower Duet" from Lakmé. Johannes Brahms's Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 is in B major, though the piece ends in B minor. Brahms also wrote the slow movement to his Second Symphony in B major, as well as the fourth and last piece of the Ballades, Op. 10. The Tuileries movement from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is in the key.

Coloratura soprano

A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.

The term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. Within the coloratura category, there are roles written specifically for lighter voices known as lyric coloraturas and others for larger voices known as dramatic coloraturas. Categories within a certain vocal range are determined by the size, weight and color of the voice.

Emma Nevada

Emma Nevada (née Wixom) (7 February 1859 – 20 June 1940) was an American operatic soprano particularly known for her performances in operas by Bellini and Donizetti and the French composers Ambroise Thomas, Charles Gounod, and Léo Delibes. Considered one of the finest coloratura sopranos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, her most famous roles were Amina in La sonnambula, and the title roles in Lakmé, Mignon, Mireille, and Lucia di Lammermoor.

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.

Indrani Dasgupta

Indrani Dasgupta is an Indian model and television presenter. She has worked on advertising campaigns for brands like Reebok, Lakmé and Allen Solly.

Lakme Fashion Week

Lakmé Fashion Week is a bi-annual fashion event that takes place in Mumbai. Its Summer-Resort show takes place in April while the Winter-Festive show takes place in August.

Lakmé Cosmetics

Lakmé is an Indian cosmetics brand which is owned by Hindustan Unilever. Having Kareena Kapoor and Ananya Pandey as the ambassador, it ranked at number 1 among the cosmetics brands in India.

Lakme started as a 100% subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills (Tomco). It was named after the French opera Lakmé, which itself is the French form of Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) who is renowned for her beauty. It was started in 1952 famously, because then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was concerned that Indian women were spending precious foreign exchange on beauty products and personally requested JRD Tata to manufacture them in India. Simone Tata joined the company as director and went on to become the chairperson. In 1996, Tata sold off their stakes in Lakmé Lever to HUL, for Rs 200 Crore(45 million US$).

In the Brand Trust Report 2012, Lakme was ranked 104th among India's most trusted brands and following year it was ranked 71st on the list. In 2014, Lakme was ranked 36th among India's most trusted brands according to the Brand Trust Report 2014. The company is the title sponsor for Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) a bi-annual fashion event which takes place in Mumbai.

Le Mariage de Loti

Le Mariage de Loti (1880; also known as The Marriage of Loti, Rarahu, or Tahiti) is an autobiographical novel by French author Pierre Loti. It was Loti's second novel and the first to win him great fame and a wide following. It describes Loti's romantic liaison with an exotic Tahitian girl named Rarahu. It is the basis for the 1883 opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes.

Le premier jour de bonheur

Le premier jour de bonheur is an opera or opéra comique in 3 acts by composer Daniel Auber. The French language libretto by Adolphe d'Ennery and Eugène Cormon is based on Joseph François Souque's Le chevalier de Canolle. The work's premiere was staged by the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Favart theatre on 15 February 1868.The opera is set in Madras at the end of the 18th century, with a mixture of sentimental elegance and precious sensibility amid a picturesque story bearing resemblances to Léo Delibes’s Lakmé: the Indian setting, a military officer – one French, the other English – and a priestess – Djelma, Lakmé.The scenario was proposed to Auber around 1865 by Victorien Sardou, and was first announced for production in September 1866 under another title. The rôle of Hélène was intended as the debut of a brilliant student of Eugénie Garcia, but a court ruling in January 1868 following a case brought by her parents delayed her debut until the following year. In view of this cast change, the role of Hélène was modified. A highpoint of the work is the 'song of the Djinns' for Djelma which became immediately popular, although it was only inserted by the composer at the last minute (possibly a rejected number from Le cheval de bronze of thirty years previously).

It was hoped to premiere the piece on 27 January (to celebrate the composer’s birthday) but as there was some orchestration outstanding, it was delayed.Le premier jour de bonheur was at first a good financial success for the Salle Favart, achieving 175 performances before dropping out of the repertoire by the end of the century.Johann Strauss II wrote a quadrille on themes from the opera as his opus 327.

Lily Pons

Alice Joséphine Pons (April 12, 1898 – February 13, 1976), known professionally as Lily Pons, was a French-American operatic soprano and actress who had an active career from the late 1920s through the early 1970s. As an opera singer she specialized in the coloratura soprano repertoire and was particularly associated with the title roles in Lakmé and Lucia di Lammermoor. In addition to appearing as a guest artist with many opera houses internationally, Pons enjoyed a long association with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where she performed nearly 300 times between 1931 and 1960.

She also had a successful and lucrative career as a concert singer which continued until her retirement from performance in 1973. From 1935–37 she made three musical films for RKO Pictures. She also made numerous appearances on radio and on television, performing on variety programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and The Dave Garroway Show among others. In 1955 she topped the bill for the first broadcast of what became an iconic television series, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. She made dozens of records; recording both classical and popular music. She was awarded the Croix de Lorraine and the Légion d'honneur by the Government of France.

Pons was also savvy at making herself into a marketable cultural icon. Her opinions on fashion and home decorating were frequently reported in women's magazines, and she appeared as the face for Lockheed airplanes, Knox gelatin and Libby's tomato juice advertisements. A town in Maryland named itself after her, and thereafter the singer contrived to have all her Christmas cards posted from Lilypons, Maryland. Opera News wrote in 2011, "Pons promoted herself with a kind of marketing savvy that no singer ever had shown before, and very few have since; only Luciano Pavarotti was quite so successful at exploiting the mass media."

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).

Mady Mesplé

Mady Mesplé (born 7 March 1931) is a French opera singer, the leading high coloratura soprano of her generation in France, sometimes heralded as the successor to Mado Robin.

Natalie Dessay

Natalie Dessay (French: [ də.sɛ]; born 19 April 1965) is a French singer, actress, and known for her former career as an operatic coloratura soprano.

She received wide acclaim in roles such as Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann, the title role in Lakmé, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. In her later career, she took on 19-century bel canto roles such as Amina in La sonnambula, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta in La traviata and added baroque music to her repertoire. Since retiring from opera stage on 15 October 2013 she has pursued a career in theatre and in concert, where she now performs, besides classical, genres such as jazz and chansons.

She has made dozens of recordings under the EMI Classics and Virgin Classics label, and then under Warner Classics/Erato Records. Since 2016 she has been recording under Sony Classical Records.


The Opéra-Comique is a Paris opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the Théâtre-Italien up to about 1793, when it again became most commonly known as the Opéra-Comique. Today the company's official name is Théâtre national de l'Opéra-Comique, and its theatre, with a capacity of around 1,248 seats, sometimes referred to as the Salle Favart (the third on this site), is located in Place Boïeldieu, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, not far from the Palais Garnier, one of the theatres of the Paris Opéra. The musicians and others associated with the Opéra-Comique have made important contributions to operatic history and tradition in France, and to French opera. Its current mission is to reconnect with its history, and discover its unique repertoire, to ensure production and dissemination of operas for the wider public. Mainstays of the repertory at the Opéra-Comique during its history have included the following works which have each been performed more than 1,000 times by the company: Cavalleria Rusticana, Le chalet, La dame blanche, Le domino noir, La fille du régiment, Lakmé, Manon, Mignon, Les noces de Jeannette, Le pré aux clercs, Tosca, La bohème, Werther and Carmen, the last having been performed more than 2,500 times.

Philippe Gille

Philippe Emile François Gille (10 December 1831 – 19 March 1901) was a French dramatist and opera librettist, who was born and died in Paris. He wrote over twenty librettos between 1857 and 1893, the most famous of which are Massenet's Manon and Delibes' Lakmé.

Although Gille studied law and was a clerk for a time at the Préfecture de la Seine, he became secretary of the Théâtre Lyrique then from 1869 an art and music for Le Figaro.Gille was elected to the Académie des beaux-arts in 1899.

Pranati Rai Prakash

Pranati Rai Prakash is an Indian fashion model best known as the winner of India's Next Top Model 2016 edition. She was also a semi-finalist at Miss India 2015. She has featured in several TV commercials and walked for Lakmé Fashion Week and India International bridal Week.

Roger Soyer

Roger Soyer (born 1 September 1939) is a French operatic bass-baritone, particularly associated with the French repertory and with Mozart.

Soyer was born in Paris, and first studied privately with G. Daum, before entering the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 19. There he was a pupil of Georges Jouatte and Louis Musy. He made his professional debut at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1962, creating the role of Mac Creag in Gilbert Bécaud's opera L'opéra d'Aran.

He sang on French Radio in 1964, in Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, and made his debut at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1965, as Pluton in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. The same year he made his debut at the Opéra-Comique, as Colline, in La Bohème, and at the Palais Garnier, as Mephisto in Gounod's Faust.

On the international scene, he appeared at the Wexford Festival in La jolie fille de Perth, and at the Edinburgh Festival as Don Giovanni, a role he became closely associated with, singing it at Aix-en-Provence, Munich, Vienna, Florence, Chicago, New York.

Other notable roles include; Ferrando in Il trovatore, Procida in Les vêpres siciliennes, Titurel in Parsifal, Rangoni in Boris Godunov, Pope Clement in Benvenuto Cellini, etc.

Soyer has a beautiful and smoothly produced voice. His numerous recordings (operatic and otherwise) include performances of the following four French operas: Lakmé, opposite Mady Mesplé and Charles Burles, under Alain Lombard; Werther, opposite Victoria de los Angeles and Nicolai Gedda, under Georges Prêtre; Benvenuto Cellini, opposite Gedda and Robert Massard, under Sir Colin Davis; and Les Troyens, opposite Jon Vickers and Josephine Veasey, also under Sir Colin Davis.

Simone Tata

Simone Naval Tata, née Dunoyer is a Swiss-born Indian Business woman belonging to the Tata family.Simone Tata was born and brought up in Geneva, Switzerland and graduated from Geneva University. She visited India as a tourist in 1953, where she met Naval H. Tata. They got married in 1955 and Simone settled permanently in Mumbai.Simone and Naval are the parents of Noel Tata. Simone is the stepmother of the Tata group chairman, Ratan Tata, who is from Naval's former marriage.

Simone Tata joined the Lakme Board in 1962 when it was a minor subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills, as managing director in 1961, rising to become its chairperson in 1982 and served as Non-Executive Chairman of Trent Ltd. until 30 October 2006.She was appointed to the board of Tata Industries in 1989.Seeing growth in the retail sector, in 1996 Tata sold Lakmé to Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), and created Trent from the money it made through the sale. All shareholders of Lakmé were given equivalent shares in Trent. The Westside brand and stores belong to Trent.

Trent (Westside)

Trent is the retail hand of the Tata group. Started in 1998, Trent operates Westside, one of the many growing retail chains in India based in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Landmark, a bookstore chain with brick and mortar stores in various locations of India.


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