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“Lakmé” by Leo Delibes: frosting for the ears

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Knowing the name of this composer is definitely not common knowledge, even among classical music fans – but a few minutes of his musicians should seem familiar to millions of people: namely the “flower duet” from Leo Delibe’s “Lakmé”. In 1983, exactly 100 years after the Paris premiere of the opera, Tony Scott used it to accompany a scene in his film “The Hunger” in which Cathérine Deneuve, as a vampire, seduced Susan Sarandon. Since then, the sweet singing of two women has appeared on soundtracks more than thirty times, as well as in various commercials, including those by British Airways and Peugeot.

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A gently swaying rhythm underlies the lascivious double melody, just like the no less famous barcarole from The Tales of Hoffmann. Unlike Offenbach, where soprano and mezzo-soprano sing “Sweet Night, Oh Night of Love”, Delibes is not explicitly about the erotic. But only about exotic flowers that the two women want to pick.

Perfectly cast down to the smallest supporting role

The action of “Lakmé” takes place in India, the title heroine, who formulates floral fantasies together with her servant Mallika, is the daughter of a priest. He hates the English occupiers of his homeland – and is immediately seized with a wild lust for murder when officer Gérard invades the forbidden temple area. The Brit, one suspects, falls for Lakmé’s charm, she returns his love. But there can’t be a happy ending, at the end of the three-act act she swallows poison and collapses dead in the tenor’s arms.

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The opera is rarely performed in its entirety – its dramaturgy is too woodcut-like for that, and as a composer Delibes lacks any sense of drama – but at least four numbers are real jewels of French opera of the 19th century, sounding petit fours, so to speak, with a lot of acoustic elements Frosting.

Because construction work on the orchestra pit on Bismarckstraße will continue until the beginning of November, the Deutsche Oper has now made a guest appearance in the Philharmonie with a concert performance of “Lakmé”. And the evening becomes a triumph: Because Christoph Seuferle, the opera director, can muster an absolutely first-class cast, without famous names, but with perfectly cast soloists, down to the smallest supporting role.

And because the Serbian conductor Daniela Candillari knows exactly how to emphasize the qualities of the score. So she sets a powerful pace in the ensemble scenes, relies on lively bustle in the style of the folksy opéra comique, in order to then be able to let the elegiac, dreamy scenes breathe freely.

Leo Delibes’ greatest strengths are his elegant, sweeping melodies full of poetry and grace. Josh Lovell languishes enrapturingly as Gérard with a light, slender tenor, Aigul Khismatullina reaps huge cheers for her “little bell aria”, whereby the singer from Tartastan’s luminous, velvety cantilenas are even more enchanting than the flawless coloraturas. It also harmonizes perfectly with a flower duet with Mireille Lebel.

Thomas Lehman lends Lakmé’s vengeful father stature with a strikingly heroic voice, Dean Murphy is a gentleman’s baritone as Frédéric, and Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo as Mistress Benson caricatures a quirky governess lovingly. Source soirée fantastique! Fredrik Hanssen

A recording of the evening can be heard on the RBB Kultur station until the end of October.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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