Who Is Leo Delibes?

Who is Leo Delibes? He is the composer of fine operas; learn about this famous composer and his works.

Delibes is very famous for the exotic opera Lakme. This is not his only opera, however. Throughout his life, Delibes created many operas that pleased his French audience. Read this article for an overview of these operatic works.

Delibes was born in France in 1836. He studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he began to develop his florid style and orchestral sense. Upon graduation, he achieved fame as a master of the ballet. His ballets Coppelia and Sylvia are favorites today. The composer soon wrote works in the genres of opera and operetta. His works in opera dealt mainly with the Opera Comique. The first operetta of the composer was Deus sous de charbon, which is still performed today, on occasion. He wrote Le Roi l'a dit (The King Said So), Jean di Nivelle, and Lakme while Second Chorus Master at the Paris Opera House in the mid-1800's. Of these works, Lakme is still famous, mainly because it is a prized coloratura role to have in the repertoire. His final work was Kassya, which was orchestrated by a fellow composer, Massanet, after Delibes' death. Delibes died in 1891 in his native country of France, respected and missed by his contemporaries.

Lakme is an Oriental tale that includes mysticism, romance and deceit in the Far East. Delibes was under the influence of the Romantic poets of his time when choosing this opera. For these poets, the Far East was a romantic adventure, filled with mystery. It is mainly because of this theme that his opera was popular. The libretto is an improbable tale of love between a British officer and daughter of an Indian religious priest. Two of the most famous pieces in the opera are the Flower Duet, and the Bell Song, where the daughter sings, almost possessed, of a legend surrounding a bell in the woods. Delibes had a special talent for text painting and use of vocal coloring in his arias. In the Bell Song, the daughter of the priest uses her voice in imitation of a bell, creating sounds that mock the story and using the voice as an instrument, or an extension of the orchestra.

Delibes wrote a great deal of religious music after the period that he associated with opera. He also wrote some art songs, including the famous Les Filles of Cadiz (The Girls of Cadiz). His songs are still performed today, most by high sopranos. Again, his pieces are imbued with an elusive, melodic quality that hooks the listener.

Delibes was given the position of professor on Composing and Composition at the Paris Conservatory in 1881. Soon after, he became a member of the Institut de France.

Delibes is remembered as having a charming touch in melody and orchestration, and a flair for text painting and highlighting the voice. While his operas do not contain the power of Wagner or the elusive brilliance of Mozart, they contain pieces that capture the mind. The popularity of certain select opera pieces proves that Delibes was certainly a competent and ingenious master of his art.

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