The Flower Duet (“Dôme Epais”) is a soprano/mezzo-soprano duet from the opera Lakmé (1881-82) by the French composer, Delibes. The opera is set in late nineteenth century colonial India and tells the story of the forbidden love between Lakmé (an Indian priestess of Brahma) and Gerald – an English army officer.
During the Raj many Hindus were forced by the British to practice their religion in secret. Indeed, at the beginning of the opera we see Lakmé’s father (a high priest of the Brahmin temple) clandestinely travelling to a temple to worship. Meanwhile Lakmé and her servant gather flowers, bathe in a nearby river and sing the The Flower Duet. In it Lakmé tries to put aside her worries concerning her father’s safety, and just enjoy the beautiful spring time flowers. It evocatively establishes the opera’s exotic atmosphere.
Having lain in relative obscurity for many years, the popularity of The Flower Duet blossomed – pardon the pun – following its use in a British Airways television commercial. It has remained one of the most well-known pieces of classical music.