Lakmé’s Echoing Jewels<sup>1</sup>

Gurminder Kaur Bhogal

in The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780195365870
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932054 | DOI:
Lakmé’s Echoing Jewels1

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This chapter focuses on the title character in Delibes’ Lakmé. In particular, the chapter attempts to illuminate Lakmé’s excessive, melismatic solo utterances by tapping into her devotional fervor and high social status as the daughter of a Hindu Brahmin, rather than relegating her to the realm of the madwoman, seductress, or psychotic—spaces where female characters who “speak” in excessive ornament have traditionally been placed. Investigating connections between “ornament” and “Other,” this chapter aims to situate perceptions of abundance within long-standing discourses on meaning and beauty, in the process invigorating and reshaping the discourse about female singers and coloratura. To do so, the chapter draws on the rarely discussed critical reception and little-known literary sources that inspired the creation of Lakmé, and it analyzes the character’s coloratura as a purveyor of sacred legend rather than as a sign of instability and “otherness.”

Keywords: Delibes; Lakmé; Brahmin; madwoman; seductress; psychotic; ornament; other; coloratura; sacred; legend

Chapter.  9576 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Opera

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