The Calgary Opera opens its 2015-16 season today with Lakmé, a tale of love and betrayal composed by Léo Delibes.
Pierre Loti — a Frenchman who spent most of his time traveling to faraway locations — wrote the story in 1880, about a Hindu Priestess who disobeys her father to be with the British officer she’s fallen in love. The novel, titled Le Mariage de Loti, is said to be an semi-autobiographical account of his romantic relationship with a Tahitian girl.
After reading Loti’s novel, playwright and librettist Edmond Gondinet was so moved by it that he set out to write a libretto based on it specifically for a young American soprano named Marie van Zandt, who had just appeared in another French opera in 1880 — Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon. Gondinet gave a copy of Le Mariage de Loti to Delibes to read while taking a train ride. The composer loved it and wrote the score within a year. Lakmé first opened in Paris in 1883.
Lakmé brings together several themes of opera that were popular in the late 19th century: exotic locations, religion, and the novelty of living in a distant land. It also contains two of the most widely recognized arias: “Flower Duet,” which can be heard on British Airways advertisements, and the “Bell Song.”
Lakmé, which stars Aline Kutan as Lakmé, Ryan MacPherson as Gerald, Andrea Hill as Mallika, and Valerian Ruminski as Nilakantha, runs at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on November 21, 22, and 27. It is conducted by Gordon Gerrard and directed by Tom Diamond.
Other productions coming up this season include the Canadian premiere of Erich Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt – The Dead City, about a young man’s fight for sanity as he falls for a woman who eerily resembles his dead wife, and Mozart’s masterpiece, The Magic Flute, where an honourable prince is ordered by the Queen of the Night to save a beautiful princess.
Tickets and subscriptions to the Calgary Opera are available online.