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Music for a TV advertising film, the launch of the famous duet from Lakme, music by Leo Delibes, arranged and conducted by Howard Blake
Published by: PD/HB
Commissioned by: Saatchi and Saatchi
Instrumentation: 2 sopranos and orch.
[Key to Abbreviations]
First Performance: Recorded CTS March 31 1984, Elaine Barry and Judith Pearce (sopranos) and orchestra conducted by Howard Blake
Sheet Music Available
Instrumental / piano score for sale

The British Airways Theme Tune (Lakme) for solo piano is available as sheet music from Highbridge Music Ltd

To purchase a copy of the sheet music, click here


The director Tony Scott had been introduced to this duet for two sopranos by Howard, who then recorded it with his own orchestra for Tony's feature film 'The Hunger' in 1982. The song comes from the opera 'Lakme' by Leo Delibes (1883) and is called 'Viens Mallika'.

Two years later Tony asked Howard if the track could be adapted for a TV commercial for British Airways (titled 'Wider Seats'). He used the same sopranos and orchestra but adapted it to fit the film. Innumerable re-arrangements followed over a period of more than 20 years.

Simon Laurie who edited the film in 1984 describes the film:  ''The ad featured  a wider seat being lowered into a roofless plane. Unfortunately when the lid is replaced a small bird is trapped inside, The roof is then raised to let the bird escape because British Airways is "the airline that cares about everyone that flies."




23rd April 2018 Pretty Yende,

The outstanding South African soprano Pretty Yende tells in The Times of April 10th 2018 'that the turning point of her life was seeing a TV advert for British Airways, aka Delibes's Flower Duet from Lakme, 'It's fair to say that it changed Yende's life.'

This ad was a recording which I arranged and conducted with two 'early' sopranos, Elaine Barry and Judith Pearce on March 31, 1984 at CTS Studios Wembley, London.

Lakme and British Airways. www.howardblake.com/biography/autobiography/british airways

In 1982 the film director Tony Scott invited me to be musical director for his feature film 'The Hunger', starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. He'd had the interesting idea of constructing most of the score from existing classical music, carefully chosen to fit each scene, which I was given the job of finding.

Tony wanted music for a scene played between Deneuve and Sarandon in a set like an Egyptian temple. The script suggested to me the soprano duet from Lakme called 'Viens O Mallika' and I found an old Fifties recording of it. Tony liked it but didn't like the ancient recording and the 'wobbly' sopranos (ie using heavy vibrato). I suggested using two 'early-music' sopranos, Elaine Barry and Judith Pearce (without vibrato) whom I conducted several days later with my orchestra The Sinfonia of London.  Tony loved it and two years later he rang me again:

'I've shot a commercial for British Airways with the shadow of a 747 ascending the Empire State Building. Do you think you could get that opera piece we did to fit it?' I arranged a special version of 'Viens, Mallika' from 'Lakme' and recorded it with Elaine Barry and Judith Pearce with my orchestra for a second time. British Airways loved it and decided to use it as their global signature-tune, something that still happens many years later and quite possibly makes this theme the most long-running piece of ad music in history. This would have been the recording which inspired Pretty Yende to sing. I am so proud to know of this wonderful result and wish Miss Yende all the greatest success and happiness.

Related Works

'THE HUNGER' op.314 (October 1982) (Audio Sample Available)
Music supervised, arranged, conducted (and in some instances played) by Howard Blake for the feature film directed by Tony Scott starring Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie
'BRITISH AIRWAYS' op.348 (1985)
The further use of Delibes' 'Lakme' for a TV advertising film
'BRITISH AIRWAYS - 'SUPERLAKME'' op.353 (September 1985)
Music for a TV advertising film
'TEARS OF JOY' op.499 (June 1997)
A new arrangement of Lakme for 2 sopranos and piano(see op.333), music for a TV advertising film (British Airways)

Related Autobiography Chapters


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