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Costume Design, Opera, Lakme, Norman Edwards, Art Deco Watercolor


Norman Edwards (act. 1920s-1940s)
Noelte Lakmé 2nd Act
American: c. 1940s
Watercolor and gouache, pencil, pen and ink, and gold paint on illustration board
Signed and titled in pencil, lower right
21.75 x 14.25 inches, overall

Original costume design for a production of the opera Lakmé by Norman Edwards. Lakmé, composed by Léo Delibes, is a tragic romance between the title character, a young Hindu woman, and a British officer. Based on a novel by Pierre Loti, the opera is set during the late 19th century British Raj in India and premiered in 1883. This costume was designed for Act 2, in which Lakmé sings the famous aria “Où va la jeune Hindoue?,” popularly known as “The Bell Song.” The costume features a bright green bare midriff top with a long, dramatically flaring skirt, and a long, flowing veil of translucent black patterned fabric. Jewelry figures in the opera’s plot, and so Lakmé is wearing gold necklaces and bangles on her arms and wrists. The costume is shown being worn by the soprano Maria Noelte, whose lovely and striking features are captured in Edwards’s drawing.

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Maria Noelte was a coloratura soprano from Chicago. From 1944 to 1945, she performed in concert in the New York area, her first recital at Town Hall. She performed “The Bell Song” from Delibes’ Lakmé in the Naumburg Orchestral Concert series in New York’s Central Park in 1944 for a Memorial Day concert which marked the 20th year that concerts were arranged by the sons of Elkan Naumburg, who had donated the bandstand on the Mall in 1922. She also performed “The Bell Song” as the featured performer at a benefit concert in Darien, Connecticut, in 1945, and was reviewed in the local newspaper:

The set program came to a close on a brilliant, high note, in more ways than one, when Maria Noelte appeared to sing the famous ‘Bell Song’ from ‘Lakme’ of Delibes. Especially outstanding was her florid singing, in which she displayed fast accurate scales, and staccati struck like silver bells with perfect intonation. Otherwise, her consistent limipidity of tone and facile technique were genuinely impressive.

Norman Edwards was a costume and set designer. He created the costumes and sets for Martha Graham’s Indian-inspired modern dance The Flute of Krishna in 1926. (The dance was the first one of Graham’s performances to be filmed and can be seen online, see References below.)

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning, wear, soiling, bumped corners, extraneous marks expected for working illustration art. Lower left corner slightly rounded, lower right corner with small dampstain, unobtrusive and can be matted out.


“Array of Prominent Vocalists Presents Beautiful Concert for Benefit of Darien Methodist Church.” 8 December 1945. The Norwalk Hour, Norwalk, CT. p. 5. Online at,4295971 (11 May 2010).

Department of Parks Arsenal, Central Park, Press Releases 1944. p. 27. Online at (11 May 2010).

“Flute of Krishna, The.” YouTube. 26 December 2006. (11 May 2010). Note: The date of the dance and film is 1926 even though the YouTube poster put 1925.

“Notable Events and Performers.” Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. (11 May 2010).

Additional information


20th Century