October 20, 2021

The Many Lives of the “The Flower Duet”



Composer Leo Delibes

We’re celebrating the Classical California Ultimate Playlist with a series of fun and informative blogs about the music you love.

Coming in this year at #75 on your Classical California Ultimate Playlist, is a duet from the exotically-set opera Lakme by the Frenchman Leo Delibes. The action of the opera takes place during the British Raj in India during the late-19th century. The so-called Flower Duet from Act 1 is an exquisite blending of soprano and mezzo-soprano voices in close harmony. The characters singing are Lakme herself (the French version of the name Lakshmi) and her servant Mallika. What are these nice ladies singing about? Well, they’ve gone down to the banks of a river to gather flowers. That’s pretty much it.

The piece is instantly recognizable from the many times it’s been used in TV and film. You may have heard it while watching The Simpsons or Parks and Rec. And at the movies, it shows up all the time on soundtracks including such unlikely films as The Angry Birds Movie and Bad Santa.

Here’s one of my favorite renditions of the Flower Duet with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham:

For whatever reason, The Flower Duet also lends itself to some pretty creative arrangements; what the kids call re-mixes!