Opéra-comique en 3 actes
Music: Léo Delibes (1836–1891)
Libretto: Edmond Gondinet & Philippe Gille, after Théodore Pavie’s story ‘Les babouches du Brahmane’ and Pierre Loti’s ‘Le Mariage de Loti’ (1880)
First performance: Opéra Comique (Salle Favart), Paris, 14 April 1883
SETTING: India, mid-19th century.
PLOT: Lakmé is the daughter of Nilikantha, a fanatical brahmin. Gérald, a young English officer, strays into the brahmin’s garden, where he meets Lakmé; the two fall in love. However, Nilikantha is infuriated by the sacrilege; he vows to kill the trespasser – when he discovers his identity. Disguised as a beggar monk, he searches the town, with Lakmé disguised as a singer, since Nilikantha thinks the sound of her voice will reveal her lover. Lakmé sings, Gérald betrays himself, and Nilikantha stabs Gérald. Lakmé and a faithful servant take Gérald to safety in the middle of the jungle. There she prepares to marry him. However, he hears his regiment passing by, on its way to quell an Indian rebellion. Duty speaks louder than love, and Lakmé, unable to bear his departure, kills herself by eating the leaves of a poisonous tree.
The French were fascinated by India in the nineteenth century. ‘Lakmé’ follows a long line of operas set there, including Auber’s ‘Le dieu et la bayadère’ (1830) and ‘Le premier jour de bonheur’ (1868), Halévy’s ‘La fée aux roses’ (1849) and ‘Le nabab’ (1853), Adam’s ‘Si j’étais roi!’ (1852), David’s ‘Lalla-Roukh’ (1862), Bizet’s ‘Les pêcheurs de perles’ (1863), Meyerbeer’s ‘Vasco da Gama / L’Africaine’ (1865) [
Two of the most famous opera numbers come from ‘Lakmé’: the Flower Duet and the Bell Song. While these songs are justly celebrated, the opera itself is a little masterpiece. ‘Lakmé, grâce à sa musique si pleine de charme, de poésie, de couleur et d'originalité, a obtenu l'un des plus grands succès qu'on ait connus à l'Opéra-Comique depuis une vingtaine d'années,’ Arthur Pougin wrote.  Delibes was elected to the Académie des beaux-arts on the strength of this opera.
 ‘Lakmé, thanks to its music so full of charm, poetry, colour and originality, obtained one of the greatest successes at the Opéra-Comique for twenty years.’
No. 12 – Scène des conjurés : « ‘Au milieu des chants d'allégresse »
Nilikantha and his men plot to murder Gérald.‘
Nilakantha, prêtre brahmane / Brahmin priest (baritone): Gabriel Bacquier
Conductor: Richard Bonynge
Chœurs et Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo, 1967