Léo Delibes: Lakmé Prelude


Léo Delibes’ three-act opera Lakmé is perhaps this French composer’s most well-known work. Composed between 1881-1882, Lakmé is based on Le Mariage de Loti by Pierre Loti, and Les babouches du Brahmane by Théodore Pavie. The Prelude to Lakmé is the first purely musical number heard in the opera, and it opens the show with apt drama and emotion. 


The Music

Opening with a bold theme led by the lower strings and the brass, the upper strings counter with a more dramatic flourish. The music moves slowly upwards in tone before it explodes into the twee woodwind theme. The fast-moving violins are matched by the bold trumpets, who signal into a short flute solo, which is completely unaccompanied. Soon growing into a woodwind feature, this very quiet section is answered by a wholly Romantic lyrical section led by the upper strings. Accompanied by the horns, woodwind and harp, this indulgent section sees the main themes from Lakmé laid out onto the table. 

The cellos take over the theme before the strings unite to grow into a small climactic section. As the dynamic begins to raise into the big climax of the piece, Delibes uses the percussion to stop the music dead in its tracks. This leads to the Prelude ending very quietly and quite suddenly. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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