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Léo Delibes


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(Clément Philibert) Leo Delibes (February 21, 1836 – January 16, 1891) was a French composer of Romantic music. He was born in St. Germain-du-Val, France.

After training under Adolphe Adam at the Paris Conservatoire, he worked as rehearsal accompanist at the Théâtre Lyrique and as an organist before coming to popular attention with his ballet Coppélia (1870); its title referred to a doll, depicted in the work, which comes to life. Other ballets include Sylvia (1876), and La Source (1866), which he wrote with Minkus.

Delibes also composed various operas, of which the last to be completed, the lush orientalizing Lakmé (1883), contains the famous coloratura showpiece the Bell Song (‘Où va la jeune Indoue’) and the Flower Duet, a barcarolle that British Airways commercials familiarized for non-operagoers in the 1990s. At the time, his operas impressed Tchaikovsky enough for the composer to rate Delibes more highly than Brahms. Judged purely as composers of operas, the modern critic would have to agree.

Delibes added the Divertissement to Adam’s ballet Le Corsaire, wrote a Mass, a cantata on the theme of Algiers, operettas and occasional music for the theater, such as dances and antique airs for Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse, the play that Verdi turned into Rigoletto.

Delibes died in 1891, and was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris.


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