Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


Lakmé: Highlights
Joan Sutherland (Lakmé), Gabriel Bacquier (Nilakantha), Jane Berbié (Mallika), Emile Belcourt (Hadji), Alain Vanzo (Gérald), Gwenyth Annear (Ellen), Claude Calés (Frédéric), Josephte Clément (Rose), Monica Sinclair (Miss Bentzon), Monte Carlo Opera Chorus, Orchestre National de l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo/Richard Bonynge
Decca 458 220-2 [68' 06"] Mid-price

Act 1: Viens Mallika … Dôme épais le jasmin (Flower Duet); Quand une femme est si jolie …; Prendre le dessin d'un bijou …Fantaisie aux divins mensonges; Les fleurs me paraissent plus belles … Pourquoi dans les grands bois; D'où viens-tu? Que veux-tu? …C'est le dieu de la jeunesse.

Act 2: Allons, avant que midi sonne; Lakmé, ton doux regard se voile; Ah! …Où va la jeune indoue (Bell Song); Lakmé! Lakmé! C'est toi! … Dans la forêt près de nous.

Act 3: "Sous le ciel tout étoilé …"; Lakmé! Lakmé! Qu'as-tu? - Tu m'as donné le plus beau rêve.

Not so long ago I was enthusing about a Joan Sutherland collection from 1960, her absolute prime. Here in 1967 certain aspects of her art which were widely criticised had become just that little bit more noticeable, namely her swooning and her lack of consonants. If you listen to the exchange between Lakmé and Mallika which opens this disc you might well think Jane Berbié the more secure singer, though not an especially memorable one. But go to the Act 3 aria "Sous le ciel tout étoilé", with its melody based around three repeated notes at the beginning of each line, and you will have to admit that the means adopted, every repeated note slid into from below and then the following lines caressed with scarcely a consonant to break the flow of sound, add up to create an atmosphere of evanescent softness which could have been obtained in no other way. Her "Bell Song" is as treasurable as before, with an ease of execution which is almost frightening and a sinuousness which reeks of oriental mystery. All in all this was an assumption which we are fortunate to have preserved. Vanzo is a rather effortful Gérald at times but Bacquier's Nilakantha is magnificent and the smaller parts range from good to adequate. Bonynge is sticky in the "Flower Duet" but thereafter conducts with vigour and warmth as required and pays due attention to the extremely colourful scoring.

What of the music? The exotic libretto and Delibes's warmly romantic idiom make a heady brew. It is an immensely skilful score even though in the end it is only the "Flower Duet" and the "Bell Song" which stick in the mind. The rest is all beautifully melodious without quite evolving into a melody. Still, there will always be a place for it when someone like Sutherland is there to sing it. The real opera enthusiast will want it complete (on 2 CDs, Decca 425 485-2). If you don't wish to stretch to that then this still fine-sounding recording is well worth having. There is a full synopsis in English, French and German, and texts in French and English.

Christopher Howell

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit