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Léo Delibes (born St Germain du Val, 21 February 1836; died Paris, 16 January 1891).


Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille.


Novel Le mariage de Loti (1882) by Pierre Loti.



First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 14 April 1883.

First performance in UK: London (Gaiety Theatre), 6 June 1885.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.



Delibes is remembered largely for his charming ballet Coppélia. Why Lakmé, a hugely attractive work, should have failed to maintain popularity when Bizet's inferior Pearl Fishers does so must remain a mystery. Perhaps it is time for the Flower Duet to be used again as the background music to a TV advert. Perhaps British audiences found the generally flippant treatment of the British characters, especially the governess, unsympathetic, but even if that were the case, it wouldn't explain the persistent neglect in other countries. The first performance outside London and in English seems to have been in Liverpool on 8 March 1918. Glasgow or Edinburgh may have seen it at a similar period (to be confirmed).


Main Characters

Gerald, a British Army Officer (tenor)

Frederic, a second officer, his friend (baritone)

Nilakantha, a Brahmin priest (bass)

Lakmé, Nilakantha's daughter (soprano)

Mallika, Lakmé's servant (mezzo-soprano)

Hadji, Nilakantha's servant (tenor)

Ellen, the Governor's daughter (soprano)

Rose, Ellen's sister (mezzo-soprano)

Miss Bentson, a governess (mezzo-soprano)


Plot Summary

Gerald and Frederic stumble by accident into a woodland grove sacred to the Hindus. Before they escape, Gerald catches a glimpse of Lakmé, and falls in love. Nilakantha already hates the British, but when he catches sight of this further desecration he swears vengeance.

Nilakantha shadows them as they make their way to the local market, where he persuades Lakmé to sing her Bell Song, by which means she will flush out the guilty soldiers. She warns Gerald that her father is dangerous, but a scuffle develops in which Gerald is wounded.

Lakmé nurses him back to health in a hut in the woods, and she and Gerald enjoy a brief period of seclusion together. Frederic arrives to recall him to his duty, and Lakmé, realising the hopelessness of her position, takes poison just as her vengeful father arrives.

The Cast

Chinese Merchant
 the Governor's daughter
 a British Army Officer
 a British Army Officer
Gypsy Fortune Teller
 Nilakantha's servant
 Nilakantha's daughter
 Lakmé's servant
Miss Bentson
 the girls' governess
 a Brahmin priest
 Ellen's sister

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