A little fanfare and a touch of exoticism helped launch L’Opéra de Montréal’s 2013-2014 season. As we ascended the marble staircase towards La Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, exactly 50 years to the day of its grand opening, we were welcomed by women from the Kabir Cultural Center. Adorned in their beautiful saris, they came out to show support for L’OdM’s production of Delibes’ Lakmé.
After a successful run as a co-production with Opera Australia in 2007, Lakmé has taken the stage once again in Montréal. While the storyline does not differ much from most in the “star-crossed lover variety,” the music in this production may touch you like no other. Lakmé (Audrey Luna, soprano) is the cherished daughter of Brahmin leader Nilakantha (Burak Bilgili, bass). As Nilakantha plans his vengeance on the British invaders, Lakmé innocently goes off to pick flowers with her servant Malika (Emmar Char, soprano), a moment that leads to the breathtaking “Flower Duet.” Co-opted by many a commercial and film soundtrack, hearing this duet performed live is like hearing a pop star perform their no.1 hit.
Unbeknownst to the women, the secret temple is discovered by British officers Frédéric (Dominique Côté, baritone) and Gérald (John Tessier, tenor) and their companions Ellen (Florie Valiquette, soprano) and Rose (France Bellemare, soprano). Only Gérald remains upon Lakmé’s return, and soon the two fall deeply in love. When Nilakantha discovers that the temple has been infiltrated, he sets out to uncover the infiltrator. Forcing Lakmé to sing the “Bell Song” at the bazaar, he exposes Gérald as the perpetrator of the treason, and punishes him accordingly. A true test of their love, Lakmé is ready to sacrifice everything to be with Gérald for all eternity.
Second only to the “Flower Duet” in its beauty and popularity, the “Bell Song” goes a long way in allowing Audrey Luna to impress the audience with her remarkable vocal skills. John Tessier left me a bit wanting in terms of passion and presence, but Dominique Côté brings a certain charm to their mutual scenes. The sets were magnificent, though it is my understanding that most of the décor originates from the 2007 production.
Photos by: Yves Renaud