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Léo Delibes (February 21, 1836 – January 16, 1891) was a French Romantic composer, best known for his ballets and operas. His works include the ballets Coppélia (1870) and Sylvia (1876) and the opera Lakmé (1883), which includes the well-known "Flower Duet".
Delibes was born in Saint-Germain-du-Val, now part of La Flèche (Sarthe), on February 21, 1836; his father worked for the French postal service and his mother was a talented amateur musician, the daughter of an opera singer and niece of the organist Édouard Batiste. Delibes was the couple's only child. His father died in 1847 and the family moved to Paris, where soon after his twelfth birthday Delibes was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire. He studied first with Antoine-Jules Tariot (music theory), and then with Félix Le Couppey (piano), François Benoist (organ), François Bazin (harmony) and, at eighteen, Adolphe Adam (composition).
Delibes' early compositions were in the style ofopéra comique, a type of light opera that was popular in France in the 19th century. His first success came in 1863 with the operetta Le Roi l'a dit (The King Has Said So), which was based on a play by Eugène Labiche. In 1870, Delibes wrote his first ballet, Coppélia, which was inspired by the work of the German Romantic painter and printmaker, E.T.A. Hoffmann. Coppélia was a huge success, and it established Delibes as a leading composer of ballet music.
In 1876, Delibes wrote his second ballet, Sylvia, which was based on Greek mythology. Sylvia was also a success, and it helped to popularize the ballet in France. In 1883, Delibes wrote his most famous opera, Lakmé, which was based on a story by the French writer, Pierre Loti. Lakmé was a huge success, and it has remained one of the most popular operas in the world.
Delibes died in Paris on January 16, 1891, at the age of 54. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery.
Delibes was a master of melody and orchestration. His music is characterized by its graceful melodies, its clear structure, and its use of color and atmosphere. He was also a gifted orchestrator, and his use of the orchestra is often described as being "painterly."
Delibes' music has had a lasting impact on the world of music. His ballets and operas are still performed all over the world, and his music continues to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.