2001 - BEL CANTO OPERA’S PRODUCTION OF

LAKME

by Delibes

New English libretto and stage direction by Tom Boyd

Music Director, William Bell

"With Tom Boyd’s sparkling libretto complementing Delibes’ enchanting melodies, Lakme was, by common assent, their best production to date...a memorable event." (The Wilts. and Glos. Standard)

“Lakme’s beauty shines through. Nicola-Jane Kemp and Lynton Atkinson are superb” (The Gloucestershire Echo)

CLICK ABOVE to watch the morning puja, opening of ACT I vvvvvvvvCLICK ABOVE to watch the Devadasis (Temple Dancers) in act II

CIRENCESTER: Sundial Theatre, 23rd & 24th February 2001 - - - CHELTENHAM: Playhouse Theatre 27th, 28th February - 2nd, 3rd March

CAST

Lakme - Nicola-Jane Kemp -

Nilakantha - David Purcell

Mallika - Susan Black

Hadji - Tim Cranmore

Gerald - Lynton Atkinson

Frederick - Neil Baker

Miss Benson - Joan Self

Ellen - Katie Felix

Rose - Catrine Kirkman

TOM BOYD'S NEW LAKME LIBRETTO AVAILABLE FROM BEL CANTO OPERA FOR £5 ($10 US) + P & P 

CLICK ABOVE to hear Gerald's aria Act I, when he discovers Lakme's jewellery at the Brahman shrine

CLICK ABOVE to hear Nilakantha's aria xxxxxxx CLICK ABOVE to hear Gerald (Lynton Atkinson) sing the cantilène from Act III

SCENES FROM THE BEL CANTO OPERA PRODUCTION

NILAKANTHA: Our ancient customs suppressed... our bravest leaders arrested! Heathen forces rule our land... Hindustan is subjugated. But Brahma will prevail...take revenge on the oppressors. With God’s help we will not fail. We shall vanquish the aggressors.

MISS BENSON: Young man, as a governess I am required to be aware of the seamier elements of this foreign society which might corrupt the minds and emotions of impressionable young English ladies in my charge...it is my professional duty to see that innocent eyes are shielded from exposure to this...erotic statuary! GERALD: Miss Benson, those statues are well over a thousand years old. MISS BENSON: Antiquity is no excuse for moral laxity, Lieutenant!

ELLEN: If a suitor hopes to be selectable, he must be romantically respectable. Writing clever sonnets never comes amiss; offering pretty posies for a stolen kiss. Winking eyes won’t compromise your virtue; to play the flirt, now and then, won’t hurt you. That’s as much as English ladies ought to do...if they want to guarantee a love that’s true....Our way of loving!

THE FLOWER DUET

MALLIKA and LAKME: Down in the glade, wild jasmin grows, entwining the blushing damask rose. There in the shade, blue fleur-de-lis, underneath a sacred banyan tree...

LAKME: (aside) Such a curious yearning I feel in my heart. A strange elation that I’ve not felt before...like a feeling of freedom! The most joyous sensation. But why?

NILAKANTHA: Lakme, where is that smile of gladness? Where’s the joy that was in your eyes? What has made your heart heavy with sadness? What turned happy laughs into sighs? Sombre shadows fell over your beauty when Brahma’s sacred shrine was defiled. Since that day you’ve been sequestered in sorrow...turned away from all my dreams of tomorrow...all that I dream...all that I do, I do for for you...my child.

FREDERICK: The daughter of the Brahmin has bedazzled your sight. GERALD: You are right...I can’t deny it. She enthralled me from the start. At first her looks alone enraptured...then all at once my heart was captured. Ardent yearning keeps returning to enslave a craving heart. FREDERICK:What can I say that would bring you to your senses? When you are wed and settled down, you’ll have order to your life...your duty to the Crown, to the Regiment...and to your wife.

THE BELL SONG

LAKME: A poor pariah’s daughter, untouchable, reviled, roamed one night into the jungle...monsoon winds raging wild. Alone she wandered, weeping... outcaste...so lowly born. All young men recoiled and shunned her...the old men showered scorn. All alone she wandered, rejected, forsaken, forlorn.

 

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THE DURGA PUJA

CHORUS: Durga Ma! Invincible, with the shield of Brahma. Surya’s bow to slay the foe... wield the mace of Yama! Goddess divine, adorned with gold, tenfold arms to protect us...Goddess supreme...unyielding...bold...come to earth to direct us, and protect us! Durga, we call to all to pray to thee today. Durga protector. Durga avenger. Durga Ma.

ROSE: It’s a festival to honour Durga, the ferocious goddess with ten arms. MISS BENSON: ten arms? That sounds excessive, even by Indian standards. FREDERICK: They each hold a weapon given Durga by the other gods to slay the demons of ignorance. Perhaps you should take care, Miss Benson!

LAKME: (to herself) In my heart I know he has left me. His soul is there...with them! I’ve lost his love to his love for his country. Now all is over. (She eats the poisonous dhatura blossom)

LAKME (to Gerald) : To me your gift was love transcending. With you, each hour on earth was bliss. Stay with me, while this world is ending. Remain, to share one final kiss... (Lakme dies in Gerald’s arms) NILAKANTHA: (with exultation) She’s transported in the arms of Yama, to sit by the throne of Lord Brahma...to abide in the splendour of heaven, preparing to be born again! (final curtain)

The Wilts. and Gloucestershire Standard review

Lakme is a wonderful discovery

Reviewing Bel Canto's wonderful production of Rigoletto in February 1999, I concluded by asking how they could possibly follow it. And I must confess to a certain scepticism when Delibes' Lakme was chosen as their latest offering. Delibes doesn't have the reputation of a Verdi or Puccini and apart from the Flower Duet, the music is generally unknown. But I should have had more faith. The judgement of the Bel Canto team once again proved inspired. With Tom Boyd's sparkling libretto complementing Delibes' enchanting melodies, Lakme was, by common assent, their best production to date.

In writing Lakme, Delibes took the common theme of forbidden love and sets it in British-controlled West Bengal. The star-crossed lovers are Lakme, the sacred daughter of Nilakantha, a fervently anti-British Hindu priest, and Gerald, a lieutenant in the British army. Gerald is intrigued by the legend of the beautiful priestess who no man is allowed to look on. When he sees her he is mesmerised and enraptured while Lakme, is herself drawn ineluctably towards this forbidden love. And as their love develops, Gerald betrays both his English fiancee and his military commission and with a vengeful Nilakantha lurking in the wings, the outcome is always likely to be problematic. Light relief is provided by a quintet of English people who demonstrate the quintessentially British responses towards a culture that attracts and repels them in equal measure.

So what made Lakme such a memorable production? In part it was perhaps the surprise that a little known opera could have such wonderful melodies waiting to be discovered. It was also the spectacle with the costumes imported from the markets of Calcutta providing a riot of authentic colour and a genuine sense of the exotic transporting the audience into the depths of Indian culture with all its mystique and taboos. The orchestra too performed with its usual smooth efficiency under William Bell's direction and the young dancers added life, energy and grace. But while all these elements contributed to the production, it was the principals who lifted Lakme to a higher plane. In reviewing Hansel and Gretel, I noted that Bel Canto's burgeoning reputation had enabled them to attract distinguished performers from further afield and this trend continued in Lakme. Nicola-Jane Kemp as the eponymous heroine was utterly convincing. Musically and dramatically she was without fault, and her voice maintained a power, beauty and clarity that marked her as a singer of the highest quality. She provided, for me, the highlight of the opera with her rendering of "The Legend of the Pariah's Daughter" (the Bell Song), a performance commanded by Nilakantha to ensnare her lover in which she fully realised both its demanding musical possibilities and dramatic importance. It is a tribute to the other newcomer, Lynton Atkinson, that in his role as Gerald he was never dwarfed by Miss Kemp's performance, his soaring tenor providing the perfect accompaniment to her wonderful soprano. Their duets were also among the highlights. The two newcomers were complemented by a Bel Canto favourite, David Purcell. His Nilakantha combined the menace of his Gestapo Officer in Tosca with some of the pathos of his possessive father in Rigoletto and his impressive baritone was as convincing as ever. Of the other Bel Canto stalwarts, Sue Black as Lakme's companion Mallika performed an entrancing Flower Duet with Miss Kemp and Joan Self was perfectly cast as the archetypal governess in a British colonial household.

I am sorry that these reviews never appear in time to persuade people to see the operas but it is still a privilege to describe such a memorable event. In any event, the "House Full" notices for the later performances prove the truth of the old saying: a good wine needs no bush. Thank you Bel Canto for introducing us to a work full of the most enchanting melodies, for enabling us to hear singing of the highest quality and for giving the music lovers of the Cotswolds another week to remember. Again I don't know how you'll follow this. But I'm sure you will.

Stuart Russell - The Wilts. and Gloucestershire Standard

 

The Gloucestershire Echo review

“ Lakme’s beauty shines through”
“No expense has been spared in the run-up to Bel Canto Opera’s production of Delibes’ Lakme and the company’s flamboyance seems to have paid off. The company brought in top professionals for the opera’s leading roles and travelled to India to obtain props and costumes. So, as you would expect, Delibe’s rarely performed and understated masterpiece certainly sounds and looks good. Both Nicola-Jane Kemp, who plays the Indian princess Lakme, and Lynton Atkinson, her forbidden British lover Gerald, are superb.

Kemp’s voice reaches even the most difficult of notes with ease and her performance of the famous flower duet with Susan Black (Mallika) is as good as you are ever likely to hear and is remarkably beautiful.”

Iain Akerman - The Gloucestershire Echo

 

 

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