Léo Delibes

Composition Types


Born: 1836   Died: 1891   Country: France   Period: Romantic
Léo Delibes was the first notable composer of ballet to emerge after the death of Rameau, the art of ballet composition having suffered a period of neglect in the interim. Delibes was the first to craft a full-length ballet score with the care and distinction already common among the best opera composers; not only could he produce buoyant, memorable tunes, but he delivered them in sparkling orchestrations. He also wrote several operas, of which Read more Lakmé -- which generated one popular aria (the "Bell Song") and a now-ubiquitous duet -- is the best known.

Delibes studied at the Paris Conservatory under Adolphe Adam. In 1853, he became accompanist at the Théâtre-Lyrique, moving to the same position at the prestigious Paris Opéra ten years later. His great success as a composer of music for the theater in the 1870s and early 1880s gained him a professorship in composition at the conservatory in 1881, and membership in the French Institute in 1884.

The French did not place much value on instrumental music during Delibes' youth, so the emerging composer concentrated on light-hearted operettas and farces in the manner of Offenbach. His first opportunity to work on a large ballet score came in 1866, when he collaborated with Ludwig Minkus on La Source. The success of this ballet led eventually to commissions for the two works that would again raise ballet music to its highest level: Coppélia (1870), based on a story of E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Sylvia (1876), based on a mythological theme. The former is still produced regularly; both light, graceful works generated concert suites that, although not as common in the concert hall as they might be, have been frequently recorded.

Meanwhile, Delibes honed his skill as an opera composer. Most notable are his opéra comique Le Roi l'a dit (1873) and his more serious, exotic Lakmé (1883). Delibes's church music (he once worked as an organist) has fallen by the wayside, as have most of his colorful songs, with the exception of Les Filles de Cadiz, which exudes the same Franco-Spanish air as Bizet's Carmen.

His most important work, clearly, was for the stage, particularly those two 90-minute ballet scores. Their significance, beyond their own merits, is the direct influence they had on Tchaikovsky, whose mastery of the symphonic ballet owes everything to Coppélia and Sylvia. Read less
The Best Of French Ballet - Delibes / Lenárd, Slovak Rso
Release Date: 12/01/1992   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550080   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Lakmé

Browse 1-5 of 5 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Delibes: Lakme / Lombard, Mesple, Paris Opera Comique Orchestra
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 570761 Release Date: 05/04/2018   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Léo Delibes
    Performer:  Agnes Disney,  Monique Linval,  Charles Burles,  Danielle Millet  ... 
    Conductor:  Alain Lombard
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opéra Comique Orchestra,  Paris Opéra Comique Chorus
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  • 2.
    Delibes: Lakme / Joel-Hornak, Matthews, Di Toro, Opera Australia Chorus & Orchestra
    Label: Opera Australia   Catalog: 56022 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Léo Delibes
    Performer:  Stephen Bennett,  Emma Matthews,  Aldo di Toro,  Edmond Choo  ... 
    Conductor:  Emmanuel Joel-hornak
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra,  Opera Australia Chorus
    CD: $22.49
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  • 3.
    Delibes: Lakme / Bonynge, Sutherland, Tourangeau, Raisbeck, Pringle
    Label: Opera Australia   Catalog: 56012 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Léo Delibes
    Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Huguette Tourangeau,  Rosina Raisbeck,  Isobel Buchanan  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra,  Autralian Opera Chorus
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  • 4.
    Delibes: Lakmé / Sutherland, Tourangeau, Bonynge
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 38 Release Date: 06/27/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Léo Delibes
    Performer:  Graeme Ewer,  Henri Wilden,  Isobel Buchanan,  Rosina Raisbeck  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Autralian Opera Chorus,  Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Delibes: Lakmé / Plasson, Dessay, Kunde, Van Dam, Et Al
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56569 Release Date: 10/20/1998   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Léo Delibes
    Performer:  Natalie Dessay,  Gregory Kunde,  José van Dam,  Delphine Haidan  ... 
    Conductor:  Michel Plasson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Chorus,  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
    CD: $39.99
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