Leo Delibes |

Leo Delibes |

Léo Delibes

Date of birth
Date of death

Delib. “Lakme”. Stanzas of Nilakanta (Fyodor Chaliapin)

Such grace, such richness of melodies and rhythms, such excellent instrumentation has never been seen in ballet. P. Tchaikovsky

Leo Delibes |

French composers of the XNUMXth century L. Delibes’ work is distinguished by the special purity of the French style: his music is concise and colorful, melodic and rhythmically flexible, witty and sincere. The composer’s element was musical theater, and his name became synonymous with innovative trends in ballet music of the XNUMXth century.

Delibes was born into a musical family: his grandfather B. Batiste was a soloist at the Paris Opera-Comique, and his uncle E. Batiste was an organist and professor at the Paris Conservatory. The mother gave the future composer primary musical education. At the age of twelve, Delibes came to Paris and entered the conservatory in the composition class of A. Adam. At the same time, he studied with F. Le Coupet in the piano class and with F. Benois in the organ class.

The professional life of the young musician began in 1853 with the position of pianist-accompanist at the Lyric Opera House (Theatre Lyrique). The formation of Delibes’ artistic tastes was largely determined by the aesthetics of the French lyric opera: its figurative structure, music saturated with everyday melodies. At this time, the composer “composes a lot. He is attracted by musical stage art – operettas, one-act comic miniatures. It is in these compositions that the style is honed, the skill of accurate, concise and accurate characterization, colorful, clear, lively musical presentation is developed, the theatrical form is improved.

In the mid 60s. the musical and theatrical figures of Paris became interested in the young composer. He was invited to work as second choirmaster at the Grand Opera (1865-1872). At the same time, together with L. Minkus, he wrote the music for the ballet “The Stream” and the divertissement “The Path Strewn with Flowers” for Adam’s ballet “Le Corsair”. These works, talented and inventive, brought Delibes a well-deserved success. However, Grand Opera accepted the composer’s next work for production only 4 years later. They became the ballet “Coppelia, or the Girl with Enamel Eyes” (1870, based on the short story by T. A. Hoffmann “The Sandman”). It was he who brought European popularity to Delibes and became a landmark work in his work. In this work, the composer showed a deep understanding of ballet art. His music is characterized by laconism of expression and dynamics, plasticity and colorfulness, flexibility and clarity of the dance pattern.

The composer’s fame became even stronger after he created the ballet Sylvia (1876, based on T. Tasso’s dramatic pastoral Aminta). P. Tchaikovsky wrote about this work: “I heard the ballet Sylvia by Leo Delibes, I heard it, because this is the first ballet in which music is not only the main, but also the only interest. What charm, what grace, what richness of melodic, rhythmic and harmonic!

Delibes’ operas: “Thus Said the King” (1873), “Jean de Nivel” (1880), “Lakmé” (1883) also gained wide popularity. The latter was the most significant operatic work of the composer. In “Lakma” the traditions of lyrical opera are developed, which so attracted listeners in the lyrical and dramatic works of Ch. Gounod, J. Vize, J. Massenet, C. Saint-Saens. Written on an oriental plot, which is based on the tragic love story of an Indian girl Lakme and an English soldier Gerald, this opera is full of truthful, realistic images. The most expressive pages of the score of the work are devoted to revealing the spiritual world of the heroine.

Along with composition, Delibes paid much attention to teaching. From 1881 he was a professor at the Paris Conservatory. A benevolent and sympathetic person, a wise teacher, Delibes provided great assistance to young composers. In 1884 he became a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts. Delibes’ last composition was the opera Cassia (unfinished). She once again proved that the composer never betrayed his creative principles, refinement and elegance of style.

Delibes’ heritage is concentrated mainly in the field of musical stage genres. He wrote over 30 works for the musical theater: 6 operas, 3 ballets and many operettas. The composer reached the greatest creative heights in the field of ballet. Enriching ballet music with the breadth of symphonic breathing, the integrity of dramaturgy, he proved himself to be a bold innovator. This was noted by critics of the time. So, E. Hanslik owns the statement: “He can be proud of the fact that he was the first to develop a dramatic beginning in dance and in this he surpassed all his rivals.” Delibes was an excellent master of the orchestra. The scores of his ballets, according to historians, are “a sea of ​​colors.” The composer adopted many methods of orchestral writing of the French school. His orchestration is distinguished by a predilection for pure timbres, a multitude of the finest coloristic finds.

Delibes had an undoubted influence on the further development of ballet art not only in France, but also in Russia. Here the achievements of the French master were continued in the choreographic works of P. Tchaikovsky and A. Glazunov.

I. Vetlitsyna

Tchaikovsky wrote about Delibes: “… after Bizet, I consider him the most talented …”. The great Russian composer did not speak so warmly even about Gounod, not to mention other contemporary French musicians. For the democratic artistic aspirations of Delibes, the melodiousness inherent in his music, emotional immediacy, natural development and reliance on existing genres were close to Tchaikovsky.

Leo Delibes was born in the provinces on February 21, 1836, arrived in Paris in 1848; after graduating from the conservatory in 1853, he entered the Lyric Theater as a pianist-accompanist, and ten years later as a choirmaster at the Grand Opera. Delibes composes a lot, more at the behest of feeling than following certain artistic principles. At first, he wrote mainly operettas and one-act miniatures in a comical way (about thirty works in total). Here his mastery of accurate and accurate characterization, clear and lively presentation was honed, a bright and intelligible theatrical form was improved. The democratism of the musical language of Delibes, as well as Bizet, was formed in direct contact with everyday genres of urban folklore. (Delibes was one of Bizet’s close friends. In particular, together with two other composers, they wrote the operetta Malbrook Going on a Campaign (1867).)

Wide musical circles drew attention to Delibes when he, together with Ludwig Minkus, a composer who later worked in Russia for many years, gave the premiere of the ballet The Stream (1866). Success was reinforced by Delibes’ next ballets, Coppelia (1870) and Sylvia (1876). Among his many other works stand out: an unpretentious comedy, charming in music, especially in Act I, “Thus Said the King” (1873), the opera “Jean de Nivelle” (1880; “light, elegant, romantic in the highest degree,” wrote Tchaikovsky about her) and the opera Lakme (1883). Since 1881, Delibes is a professor at the Paris Conservatory. Friendly to all, sincere and sympathetic, he provided great assistance to young people. Delibes died on January 16, 1891.

* * *

Among the operas of Leo Delibes, the most famous was Lakme, the plot of which is taken from the life of Indians. Of greatest interest are the ballet scores of Delibes: here he acts as a bold innovator.

For a long time, starting with Lully’s opera ballets, choreography has been given a significant place in French musical theater. This tradition has been preserved in the performances of the Grand Opera. So, in 1861, Wagner was forced to write ballet scenes of the grotto of Venus especially for the Paris production of Tannhäuser, and Gounod, when Faust moved to the stage of the Grand Opera, wrote Walpurgis Night; for the same reason, the divertissement of the last act was added to Carmen, etc. However, independent choreographic performances became popular only from the 30s of the 1841th century, when romantic ballet was established. “Giselle” by Adolphe Adam (XNUMX) is his highest achievement. In the poetic and genre specificity of the music of this ballet, the achievements of the French comic opera are used. Hence the reliance on existing intonations, the general availability of expressive means, with some lack of drama.

The Parisian choreographic performances of the 50s and 60s, however, became more and more saturated with romantic contrasts, sometimes with melodrama; they were endowed with elements of spectacle, magnificent monumentality (the most valuable works are Esmeralda by C. Pugni, 1844, and Corsair by A. Adam, 1856). The music of these performances, as a rule, did not meet high artistic requirements – it lacked the integrity of dramaturgy, the breadth of symphonic breathing. In the 70s, Delibes brought this new quality to the ballet theater.

Contemporaries noted: “He can be proud of the fact that he was the first to develop a dramatic beginning in dance and in this he surpassed all his rivals.” Tchaikovsky wrote in 1877: “Recently I heard brilliant music of its kind for Delibes ballet “Sylvia”. I had previously become acquainted with this marvelous music through the clavier, but in the magnificent performance of the Viennese orchestra, it simply fascinated me, especially in the first movement. In another letter, he added: “… this is the first ballet in which music is not only the main, but also the only interest. What charm, what grace, what richness, melodic, rhythmic and harmonic.

With his characteristic modesty and exacting exactingness towards himself, Tchaikovsky spoke unflatteringly about his recently completed ballet Swan Lake, giving the palm to Sylvia. However, one cannot agree with this, although Delibes’ music undoubtedly has great merit.

In terms of script and dramaturgy, his works are vulnerable, especially “Sylvia”: if “Coppelia” (based on the short story by E. T. A. Hoffmann “The Sandman”) relies on an everyday plot, although not consistently developed, then in “Sylvia” ( according to the dramatic pastoral by T. Tasso “Aminta”, 1572), mythological motifs are developed very conditionally and chaotically. All the more great is the merit of the composer, who, despite this far from reality, dramatically weak scenario, created a vitally juicy score, integral in expression. (Both ballets were performed in the Soviet Union. But if in Coppelia the script was only partially changed to reveal a more real content, then for the music of Sylvia, renamed Fadetta (in other editions – Savage), a different plot was found – it is borrowed from the story of George Sand (premiere of Fadette – 1934).)

The music of both ballets is endowed with bright folk features. In “Coppelia”, according to the plot, not only French melodics and rhythms are used, but also Polish (mazurka, Krakowiak in act I), and Hungarian (Svanilda’s ballad, czardas); here the connection with the genre and everyday elements of the comic opera is more noticeable. In Sylvia, the characteristic features are enriched with the psychologism of the lyrical opera (see waltz of Act I).

Laconism and dynamics of expression, plasticity and brilliance, flexibility and clarity of the dance pattern – these are the best properties of Delibes music. He is a great master in the construction of dance suites, individual numbers of which are connected by instrumental “recitatives” – pantomime scenes. Drama, lyrical content of the dance are combined with genre and picturesqueness, saturating the score with active symphonic development. Such, for example, is the picture of the forest at night with which Sylvia opens, or the dramatic climax of Act I. At the same time, the festive dance suite of the last act, with the vital fullness of its music, approaches the wonderful pictures of folk triumph and fun, captured in Bizet’s Arlesian or Carmen.

Expanding the sphere of lyrical and psychological expressiveness of dance, creating colorful folk-genre scenes, embarking on the path of symphonizing ballet music, Delibes updated the means of expressiveness of choreographic art. Undoubtedly, his influence on the further development of the French ballet theater, which at the end of the 1882th century was enriched by a number of valuable scores; among them “Namuna” by Edouard Lalo (XNUMX, based on the poem by Alfred Musset, the plot of which was also used by Wiese in the opera “Jamile”). At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, a genre of choreographic poems arose; in them, the symphonic beginning was even more intensified due to the plot and dramatic development. Among the authors of such poems, who have become more famous on the concert stage than in the theater, must be mentioned first of all Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, as well as Paul Dukas and Florent Schmitt.

M. Druskin

Short list of compositions

Works for musical theater (dates are in parentheses)

Over 30 operas and operettas. The most famous are: “Thus Said the King”, opera, libretto by Gondine (1873) “Jean de Nivelle”, opera, libretto by Gondinet (1880) Lakme, opera, libretto by Gondinet and Gilles (1883)

Ballet “Brook” (together with Minkus) (1866) “Coppelia” (1870) “Sylvia” (1876)

Vocal music 20 romances, 4-voice male choirs and others

Leave a Reply