The year before this recording first came out, superstar Joan Sutherland had issued her own recording of Lakmé featuring the great French tenor Alain Vanzo, and sales of that set had not abated by the time this one came out in 1971.
Hence, this recording may, in many ways, exemplify the old adage, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
The entire cast is in each individual role may not be the strongest on records, but the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
True that there are numerous tape splices, particularly in those passages featuring tenor Charles Burles (Gerald). The sound is a somewhat shallow perspective on both voices and orchestra. So, this recording was not issued in USA on EMI's top-rank label (Angel) but rather on its budget affiliate, Seraphim, since at that time, only Roger Soyer (Nilakantha) was well known in the U.S.
Yet those of us who bought the set were utterly charmed by Mesplé's intelligent, thoughtful, alternately vulnerable and independent Lakmé and Burles's sensitively shaded, quintessentially French-sounding Gerald. From the very first entry of Lakme in `Blanche Dourga, pale Siva', Mesple sends goose-bumps to listeners with her ethereal coloratura, high notes that are so surreal that really belonged not to this world but to the Indian gods. If Sutherland's Lakme was the best on earth, Mesple's simply belongs to the other world. Millet and Mesple's `Dôme épais le jasmine à la rose s'assemble', aka `Flower Duet', is a quintessential demonstration of how the duet should be tackled - the nuances, the enunciations, the intonations, the inflections, the musicality. The famous duet between Lakme and Gerald `C'est le dieu de la jeunesse' witnesses another exemplary rendition that could not be found any more, alas.
This Lakmé, after almost 45 years, is still the supreme performance.