Bell Flowers of Indian

“Lakme, a neglected nosegay of 1883, is hardly a neglected masterpiece by modern standards, ” sniffs the Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera, which goes on to state that Leo Delibes’ opera comique “has neither the melodic richness, nor the emotional intensity, nor the musical characterization found [even] in the Italian bel canto repertory.”

Other commentators throughout the 126 years since Lakme premiered in Paris have been hardly less generous. Yet Delibes’ ill-fated exotic romance is a stronger, more nuanced and rewarding work than many give it credit for, the Met Guide notwithstanding.

In addition to the celebrated Bell Song, there’s the lilting Act 1 Flower Duet, two soaring tenor arias, a gorgeous love duet, and some snappy ballet music, as one would expect from the man who created Sylvia and Coppelia.

“What’s amazing is how really beautiful the music is, ” says soprano Leah Partridge. ”It’s surprising to me that this music isn’t performed more often or excerpted in concert.”

Partridge will perform the title role of the tragic Indian princess in Florida Grand Opera’s production of Delibes’ Lakme, which opens Saturday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Daughter of the Brahman priest Nilakantha, Lakme falls in love with Gerald, a British officer. The Anglophobe Nilakantha is furious at discovering the romance and he forces Lakme to sing the exotic Bell Song to entrap Gerald, who is stabbed.

Lakme hides him in a secluded forest retreat and nurses the wounded Gerald back to health, but soon his comrade-in-arms Frederic finds him. Gerald decides to return to his regiment and the heartbroken Lakme commits suicide by eating a poisonous flower thereby saving her lover’s life with her own sacrifice to the Brahmin gods.

The celebrated Act 2 Air des clochettes or Bell Song, has kept the opera’s name alive, with its extended Oriental vocalise, a showpiece beloved of coloratura sopranos and canary-bird fanciers throughout the early and mid-20th century.

Pierre Loti’s thinly disguised autobiographical tale is based on the author’s liaison with Rarahu, a native girl of Tahiti. Delibes and his librettist, Philippe Gille, were intrigued by the exotic locale and tragic love story but transferred the action to India to introduce a tense counterpoint of ethnic and religious hostility between the Brahmans and the English.

Another significant change was the manner of the heroine’s death. The actual Rarahu died not from a selfless suicide but indelicately—and less expeditiously—from acute alcoholism. Delibes had Gille change the story to a more poetic coda by having Lakme consume a poisonous flower. The fact that the plant Delibes selected, datura stramonium, wasn’t remotely lethal, was of little concern to the composer. “For me, the datura is poison, ” he told Gille. “If it isn’t, there can be no opera.”


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Onword

2013-02-01 07:34:29 by morphedinter

I have seen it all before.
Tontite will have the doors ajar with the moon poking holes into paper tigers.
Seperate lives will mark out where and what.
Clicking clock of the mantle takes the sounds of flames as a dance of the seconds between ladder and bell.
She was always on fire attire. wearing out the only way in.
Puting on blaze orange with crimson lips that stick to the fine china goblet.
Wine will carry her conversation between the white teeth and blue wall.
Flickering lamp for old dust books will illuminate the big words that need to be found shortened


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