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Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Transmission: Samson et Dalila 

Saturday, October 20, 2018, 12:55 P.M. (ET)

Broadcast Samson et Dalila hdl 1018
Set design by Alexander Dodge for Darko Tresnjak’s new Metropolitan Opera production of Samson et Dalila
C
ourtesy Metropolitan Opera Technical Department

 
The Met: Live in HD series is made possible by a generous grant 
from its founding sponsor, The Neubauer Family Foundation. 
Digital support of The Met: Live in HD is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies. 
The HD Broadcasts are supported by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®.

Samson et Dalila  

Music by CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS 
Libretto by FERDINAND LEMAIRE 
THE CAST   
(in order of vocal appearance)
Samson  tenor, ROBERTO ALAGNA 
Abimélech  baritone, ELCHIN AZIZOV 
High Priest  bass-baritone, LAURENT NAOURI 
First Philistine  tenor, TONY STEVENSON 
Second Philistine  bass-baritone, BRADLEY GARVIN 
Messenger  tenor, MARK SCHOWALTER 
Old Hebrew  bass, DMITRY BELOSSELSKIY 
Dalila  mezzo, ELĪNA GARANČA 
  
Conducted by SIR MARK ELDER  
  
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra 
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus 
The Metropolitan Opera Ballet 
  
Production: Darko Tresnjak 
Set designer: Alexander Dodge 
Costume designer: Linda J. Cho 
Lighting designer: Donald Holder  
Choreographer: Austin McCormick 
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo 
Musical preparation: Donna Racik, Gareth Morrell, Jonathan C. Kelly, Bénédicte Jourdois 
Assistant stage directors: Mirabelle Ordinaire, Daniel Rigazzi, Paula Suozzi 
Fight director: Thomas Schall 
Prompter: Donna Racik 
Assistant set designers: Ann Beyersdorfer,  
Bryce Cutler, Colin McGurk  
Assistant costume designers: Richard Lurie, Robert Croghan  
  
Production a gift of the  
Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa, and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang, PhD. and Oscar Tang 
  
Additional funding from  
The Walter and Leonore Annenberg  
Endowment Fund, and William R. Miller 
  
Live in HD director: Gary Halvorson 
Live in HD host: Susan Graham 
Music producer: David Frost 
 
This performance will be transmitted live,  
in high definition and surround sound, into selected movie theaters as part of The Met: Live in HD series. For information on tickets,  visit metopera.org/hdlive.
 

THE STORY 

ACT I. In a public square in Gaza, after a group of Hebrews prays to God for relief from their bondage to the Philistines, Samson stands out from the crowd and rebukes them for lack of faith ("Arrêtez, ô mes frères!"). When his people claim they have only despair, he reiterates his trust in God. Philistine commander Abimélech, surrounded by his men, hears Samson's words and denounces the Hebrews and their God ("Ce dieu que votre voix implore"). Samson challenges him and exhorts his people to rise up and defeat their oppressors ("Israël, romps ta chaîne!"). When Abimélech attacks Samson, the young hero kills him with his own sword. The Philistines rush to Abimélech's body, but Samson holds them off and triumphantly leads his people away. The High Priest of Dagon comes out of the temple, sees the disarray of the Philistines and orders them to kill the Jews. When they fearfully describe Samson's power, he curses Samson, the Jews and their God and leaves with those bearing Abimélech's body ("Maudite à jamais soit la race"). The Hebrews and Samson enter again, to be hailed by an Old Hebrew. The Philistine priestess Dalila and her attendants appear, celebrating the coming of spring; Dalila recalls how Samson once conquered her heart and invites him to come again to her dwelling near Gaza ("Je viens célébrer la victoire"). Though Samson is aroused, the Old Hebrew implores him to ignore her wiles. The temptress's words grow more passionate. Her maidens dance seductively, and she joins them, telling Samson her heart is frozen until his touch brings her to life ("Printemps qui commence").

ACT II. At Dalila's tent in the vale of Sorek, she calls on her gods to help her entrap Samson and render him powerless ("Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse!"). As lightning fitfully brightens the scene, the High Priest stalks in, telling Dalila of Samson's strength and his victories over the Philistines. Though she knows that Samson's adherents caution him about her, she promises to defeat him that very night and refuses any reward, explaining that Samson's unwillingness to reveal the secret of his strength drives her to destroy him. The two exult in their prospective revenge ("Il faut, pour assouvir ma haine"). As the priest rushes away, Dalila fears Samson will not come, but in the gathering storm he appears. Though ashamed, he tells Dalila his passion has driven him to her. When he describes how God calls him to lead Israel ("Hélas! esclave de mon dieu"), Dalila entreats him to yield to the god of love ("Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix"). As soon as he seems in her power, she demands that he confide in her the secret of his strength. When he refuses, she weeps and threatens to deny herself to him. Samson hears thunder, God's warning, but nevertheless follows Dalila into her dwelling. At Dalila's summons, Philistine soldiers rush in to blind the hero, now shorn of the long hair that was the source of his strength.

ACT III. In a dungeon, the blind Samson pushes a grist mill, imploring God to take pity on his people, who should not suffer for his sin ("Vois ma misère, hélas!"). Voices of the Jews, castigating Samson, blend with his anguished prayer.

In the Temple of Dagon, Philistine women hail the dawn and join the men in a bacchanal. Samson, led in by a child, endures taunts from the High Priest and Dalila. When the Priest challenges the God of Israel to prove his might by restoring Samson's sight, the hero prays for a return of his strength ("Tu permets, ô Dieu d'Israël"). With Dalila, the High Priest approaches the altar for the sacrifice ("Gloire à Dagon"). To humiliate Samson by forcing him to kneel to Dagon, the Priest commands the child to lead Samson to the altar between the main pillars of the temple. Samson sends the child away, again prays for strength and, with a mighty effort, pushes down the pillars of the temple, crushing everyone.

THE BACKGROUND 

Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) began his musical life as a nationalistic insurgent and ended it, at eighty-six, as an arch-conservative who looked askance at Debussy and Stravinsky. A child prodigy, Saint-Saëns made his debut as a pianist at age eleven. After studies with Halévy at the Paris Conservatory, he won praise from Gounod, who wrote to him of the "obligation to become a great master." Saint-Saëns also earned fame as a church organist in his native Paris and briefly as a teacher, whose pupils included Fauré.

Saint-Saëns wrote with facility in most of the traditional forms and even contributed a choral "Hail California" to the 1915 Panorama Exposition in San Francisco, journeying there to conduct the premiere. He remains best known for his concertos (piano, cello and violin), his Third Symphony (with organ and piano) and a musical joke, Carnival of the Animals, which includes the ballet and salon favorite "The Swan." His Samson et Dalila has been more a recurrent than an established favorite, though by his death it had reached nearly 500 performances at the Paris Opera.

A prejudice against the staging of Biblical subjects seems to have made Paris reluctant initially to hear Samson. Franz Liszt was the first to press for getting Samson produced. Liszt's successor as court conductor at Weimar, Edouard Lassen, led the premiere there on December 2, 1877, in German translation. That same year, the composer Auber had tried to persuade the Paris Opera to stage one of Saint-Saëns's operas, without success. "If they won't come to us in the opera house, we must go to them in the concert hall" was Saint-Saëns's resigned reaction, but he never lost his love of the lyric theater, and his last opera—Déjanire, performed in 1911—was his twelfth.

Paris did not produce Samson until 1890 (Théâtre d'Éden), the Opéra not until 1892. In the latter year, a concert version reached New York, and in January 1893, a staged version was given in New Orleans. The Met first tried the work on February 8, 1895. The present production was introduced on February 13, 1998.

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

Book-length studies of Camille Saint-Saëns are currently scarce. James Harding's worthy Saint-Saëns and his Circle(originally published in 1965, by Chapman and Hall) is now difficult to find. Barrie Jones's English-language translation of The Correspondence of Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré: Sixty Years of Friendship, edited by Jean-Michel Nectoux (Ashgate), was published in 2004.

Denyce Graves sings Dalila's "Printemps qui commence" and "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" on her French Opera Arias recital disc. José Cura, Jean-Philippe Lafont and Robert Lloyd are joined by Olga Borodina on Colin Davis's hot-blooded recording for Erato. Pride of place among older Samson et Dalilas on disc goes to the opera's first complete recording, made in Paris in 1946, with Louis Fourestier whipping Hélène Bouvier (a beloved Dalila in her native Paris), José Luccioni, Paul Cabanel and the chorus and orchestra of Opéra National into an authentically Gallic frenzy. Almost as admirable is George Prêtre's 1962 reading (EMI), also featuring the forces of Opéra National, with Rita Gorr's Dalila vamping the heroic Samson of Jon Vickers.

The Met's new production, directed by Darko Tresnjak and designed by Alexander Dodge, opened the current season in September with Mark Elder conducting Elīna Garanča and the stentorian Roberto Alagna. The Met's previous production, directed by Elijah Moshinsky and designed by Richard Hudson, debuted in 1998 and featured the unfailingly eloquent Samson of Plácido Domingo and Olga Borodina's spectacular Dalila. Those performances are preserved in a telecast from that year. In 1981, Plácido Domingo's Samson was stalked by Shirley Verrett's charismatic Dalila in Nicolas Joël's production for San Francisco Opera, conducted by Julius Rudel (Kultur). spacer 



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