Even if you're not an opera buff, you're familiar with the haunting "Flower Duet," more properly known by its title, Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs. Written for two female voices by Léo Delibes for his exotic Indian opera Lakmé, the "Flower Duet" is an ethereal piece of music that conjures images of beautiful sunlit glades, wispy clouds and flowing robes. It's been used as background music for British Airways commercials and as the mood-setter for Catherine Deneuve's seduction of Susan Sarandon in the stylish vampire film The Hunger. But this weekend the Union Avenue Opera puts the "Flower Duet" back in its proper context, in the first act of Lakmé as an early showstopper. Lakmé is the priestess daughter of Nilakantha, a Brahmin priest who must lead his people's worship in secret because of the British Raj's crackdown on the indigenous religion. Dashing British officer Gérald finds Lakmé and her servant Mallika gathering flowers, and he and Lakmé fall in love at first sight. Nilakantha can't allow that to happen, and Gérald's superior officers aren't so keen on this dalliance either. Throw in a fatherly stabbing, and you have a bang-up illicit love that cannot be. Union Avenue Opera presents Lakmé at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (August 21 through 29) at the Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; 314-361-2881 or www.unionavenueopera.org). Tickets are $30 to $52.
Fridays, Saturdays. Starts: Aug. 21. Continues through Aug. 29, 2009