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- A Review of Leo Delibes’ Lakmé - A Michigan Opera Theatre presentation.

The pure divine fragrance of love (forbidden love) forms the theme of Lakmé - a Michigan Opera Theatre presentation. A beautiful but rarely performed opera, Lakméis set in exotic nineteenth century India and features a musical score that's sensuous, elegant and graceful. The performance is an ideal vehicle that showcased a coloratura soprano that includes the ravishing aria "The Bell Song" and the entrancing "Flower Duet", influenced by both the Italian bel canto school and French grand operas of the mid 1800's.
Aline Kutan as Lakmé - photograph The Detroit News With magnificent sets, rich text and the shimmering and caressing music, Lakmé - this tragic French opera (non-French speaking community: do not worry, we have excellent English subtitles) is a winner right from the start. The star-crossed lovers are Lakmé (an utterly convincing performance by Aline Kutan), the sacred daughter of Nilakantha (a superb performance by David Michael), a fervently anti-British vengeful Hindu priest, and Gerald (an aptly supported performance by Gerard Powers), 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 mesmerized and enraptured while Lakmé, is herself drawn unknowingly towards this forbidden love. And as their love develops, Gerald betrays both his English fiancée and his military commission and with Aline Kutan as Lakmé - photograph The Detroit News         a vengeful Nilakantha lurking in the wings, the outcome is always problematic. The English people who demonstrate the quintessentially British responses towards a culture that attracts and repels them in equal measure provide light relief.
Hindu Temple Rhythms makes its debut performance this season with Lakmé. Indian dancers delight the audience with their expressions and experience. Headed by the accomplished danseuse Sudha Chandrasekhar (a graceful performance at 60) along with her three daughters Vidya, Anjali and Anandini and students - the group sparkles in the market scene act. Mrs. Sudha Chandrasekhar and her troupe's performance is the first known time that the South Indian classical dance style Bharatanatyam is performed in an Opera. It was a spectacle with the costumes providing a riot of authentic color and a genuine sense of the exotic transporting the audience into the depths of Indian culture with all its mystique and enigma. 

The orchestra performed with its smooth efficiency under Joshua Major's direction and the young performers added life, energy and grace. Musically and dramatically Aline Kutan as Lakmé 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 the rendering of "The Legend of the Pariah's Daughter" (the Bell Song), a performance commanded by Nilakantha to ensnare her lover. This act demanded musical accuracy and dramatic importance. Gerard Powers as the British Officer/lover, in his role as Gerald was never dwarfed by Aline's performance. His soaring tenor provided the perfect accompaniment to her wonderful soprano. Their duets were also among the highlights. 

Anandini Chandrasekhar as an Indian dancer - Photograph The Detroit News

The two performers were complemented well by a convincing David Michael as Nilakantha who combined the emotions of vengeance and the pathos of a possessive father. Of the other stalwarts who stole the show, Lakmé's companion Mallika enacted by Priti Gandhi delivered the enchanting "Flower Duet " with Aline Kutan. Aline Kutan's voice reaches even the most difficult of notes with ease and her performance with Priti Gandhi is as good as you are ever likely to hear and is remarkably beautiful.” Believe it or not! Lakmé with its enchanting melodies has made me appreciate Operas more. I am happy that this review has appeared in time to persuade people to see the opera. It has been a privilege to describe such a memorable event. Be sure to grab your ticket, as I am sure this will capture your hearts. 

A 'must see' for all, Lakmé will be performed May 15 - 19, 2002
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday performances: 8:00 pm. Sunday: 2:00 pm.
For more details contact the Michigan Opera Theater at

Reviewed by Anupama Gopalakrishnan for
Pictures Courtesy: The Detroit News

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