Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Delibes and Coppelia

Donald Macleod focuses on the early career of Leo Delibes, when he struggled for recognition.

After hearing the ballet Sylvia, Tchaikovsky said that "Had I known that music, I would not have written Swan Lake." Donald Macleod surveys the life and music of French ballet masters' Herold, Adam and Delibes

Adam, like his friend Herold, died young, and it wasn't for another good ten years that one of his pupils would take his place in developing the French Romantic ballet tradition - Léo Delibes. Delibes showed very little promise as a music student, and earned his living from playing as a church organist. One of his works for choir and organ is his simple setting of the Messe brève.

Delibes also held a job as accompanist at the Theâtre Lyrique, so he was soon following in his tutor's footsteps composing for the stage. For a period of about 14 years Delibes would earn his way, whilst develop his composing skills, writing charming little operettas, and also the odd song requested by his publishers, such as Le Rossignol.

Recognition came his way in the form of a gold medal, and a diamond pin from the Emperor Napoleon III. The opportunity to compose for the ballet soon then presented itself, and La source, ou Naila was born. However, his next ballet is the one Delibes is best known for today, despite a rather cool reception at the time - Coppélia.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Adolphe Adam

    Les Pantins de Violette - operetta in 1 act

    Conductor: Richard BONYNGE Performer: Sumi JO - Soprano Performer: English Chamber Orchestra.

    • DECCA.
    • 440 679-2-.
  • Léo Delibes

    Messe breve for 2 voices and organ

    Performer: Mark OPSTAD - Director Performer: William WHITEHEAD - Organ Performer: Maitrise De Toulouse

    • Regent.
    • REGCD340.
  • Léo Delibes

    Le Rossignol for voice and piano

    Performer: Anna SMIECH - Soprano Performer: Sandra PIRRUCCIO - Flute Performer: Stefano GIBELLATO - Piano

    • Real Sound.
    • RS0510108.
  • Léo Delibes

    La Source (Naila) - ballet [Act 1 & Act 3 sc.2 by Leon MINKUS]

    Performer: Wilhelm BACKHAUS - Piano

    • Bellaphon.
    • 690077013.
  • Léo Delibes

    Coppelia - suite

    Conductor: Eugene ORMANDY Performer: Philadelphia Orchestra

    • Sony.
    • SBK46550.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.