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The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365870.001.0001

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Lakmé’s Echoing Jewels 1

Lakmé’s Echoing Jewels 1

(p.186) Chapter 10 Lakmé’s Echoing Jewels1
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Gurminder Kaur Bhogal

Oxford University Press

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

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