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Lakmé
PREMIERE4/14/1883 — Opéra-Comique (Paris)
COMPOSERLéo Delibes   
LIBRETTISTSEdmond Gondinet   Philippe Gille   
 
Synopsis

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 1), Eugène Louis Carpezat and (Joseph-)Antoine Lavastre (act 2), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (act 3). 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.

In contrast to other French operas of the period, such as Bizet's The Pearl Fishers and Massenet's Le roi de Lahore, Lakmé does more than simply capture the ambience of the Orient seen through Western eyes. The subject of the opera - which has a contemporary setting - is in fact the colonialism of the British army in India, focusing on their poor attitudes towards Indian cultural systems and the Hindu religion. It 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.

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Alternate Titles/Spellings
Lakme
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