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Friday, May 7, 2010

More Opera, Lakme

On my profile page I list the Flower Duet among my favorite music. I like it because it causes me to levitate when I hear it, but there's another reason I'll get to later.

The story itself is set in India under British occupation so, in keeping with opera-logic, it is sung entirely in French. French is a beautiful language. After decades of study, I understand every seventh or eighth word of it. This may affect the quality of my interpretation in horrible ways --of which I am happily ignorant.

Lakme is a soprano. Mallika, her slave, is a mezzo-soprano, which means they can also be friends in an opera. The two ladies are on a riverbank and Lakme says the creepers are blooming. Mallika says that's very special and they launch into one of the most sublime barcarolles in human history.

They describe a dome thick with jasmine and roses, laughing flowers on the shore, spring sleeping on the other shore. They interrupt themselves only once to worry about Lakme's father going to town alone. Mallika wisely suggests they leave the old man to God while they go see swans and gather lotus. They do.

By my reckoning, the opera is mainly a romantic, cautionary tale about the toxicity of jimson weed. But this bit of it, this Flower Duet, is how I imagine angels sound discussing horticulture. That's the other reason I like Lakme, and to further illustrate this enthusiasm have appended a specimen below.


1 comment:

  1. I can understand what you write, especially the levitation part! I had opera friends in Santa Cruz who would play this among other arias over wonderful home made Italian meals. What bliss!

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