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An opera in 3 acts
India, mid-19th century
Nilakantha, a fanatical Brahmin priest, nurses his hate of those who have forbidden him to practice his religion. He goes to attend a gathering of the faithful. Lakmé, the daughter of Nilakantha and Millika, her servant, are left behind at the temple. They sing as they prepare to bathe. Lakmé removes her jewelry and leaves it on a bench. They go off in a boat. Gerald, Frederic, two young English girls, and their governess are on a picnic. They break through the bamboo fence that surrounds the temple. The girls are warned that many of the flowers present in the area are poisonous. They spy Lakmé's jewelry. The young English girls want sketches of the pieces. Gerald agrees to stay behind and do the sketches. When Lakmé and Millika return, he hides. Millika goes off leaving Lakmé alone. She spots Gerald. She cries in alarm. When help comes, she sends them away. She tells Gerald to forget he ever saw her, but Gerald is captivated by Lakmé. Her father returns, sees the violation of his holy temple and swears to kill the man responsible.
In order to identify the intruder, Nilakantha forces Lakmé to sing at the bazaar. To his fury, no one answers to her singing. He bids her to continue. When Gerald appears, she faints in his arms. Knowing Gerald is the culprit, the priest plots against him. When the plan is put into play, Gerald is stabbed but, he is only slightly injured. Hadji, servant of Nilakantha, helps Lakmé to remove Gerald to her secret hiding place.
Lakmé tends Gerald in her hut in the forest. Far off is the sound of singing. She tells him it is a band of lovers come to drink of the sacred spring whose waters confer the gift of eternal love. She presses him to drink magical water that will ensure the couple eternal love. Gerald hesitates, torn between his love for her and his duty to his regiment. A claim further pressed by his fellow officer Frederic, who appears when Lakmé leaves to fetch the water. Lakmé notes a change in Gerald when she returns. She tears a leaf off of the fatal datura tree and bites it. As she is dying, they drink from the water of the sacred river. Nilakantha comes in. Lakmé tells him of the drink she and her lover shared from the sacred river and dies.
Léo Delibes (Bio)
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