Met Opera's "Samson & Delilah": Her Hirsute Suitor

The Bacchanale from "Samson & Delilah"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Samson and Delilah, composed by Camille Saint-Saens with a Libretto by his cousin-in-law Ferdinand Lemaire from the Old Testament Book of Judges , is now being given its first new Met production in twenty years, and is the latest Met Opera HD Broadcast. It was a mixed bag, as this opera often is, given the composer's terrific second act sandwiched between two relatively disappointing acts, especially in the case of this over-the-top physical production.

Elina Garanca & Roberto Alagna in "Samson & Delilah"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

The story takes place in about 1150 BCE, in Gaza, capitol of ancient Philistea, where Samson (tenor Roberto Alagna) and his fellow Israelites decry their enslavement, accusing their God of breaking their Holy Covenant. While Samson urges them to bless God's name, Abimelech (baritone Elchin Azizov) mocks them for their belief in a God powerless against the Philistine deity, Dagon. Samson calls on his people to revolt before striking down Abimelech. The High Priest of Dagon (bass-baritone Laurent Naouri) arrives to curse Samson and his people. At dawn, Delilah (mezzo Elina Garanca) appears with Philistine maidens bearing flowers and she lures Samson with their lost love, to follow her home. As she awaits him, the High Priest promises money for his conquest, but she states she only wants revenge. When Samson arrives, she demands he give into her as well as reveal the source of his strength, which he does (something about a haircut). She calls for the guards and Samson cries out that he has been betrayed. Soon he finds himself in a dungeon attached to a mill wheel, praying that God will punish him alone. At dawn, the Philistines worship Dagon (in the infamous orgiastic Bacchanale ballet) as the High Priest mocks Samson, and Delilah reminds him of their night of passion (if not love). Praying to God to return his strength, the restored Samson brings the temple crashing down. Also in the featured cast are a First Philistine (tenor Tony Stevenson), a Second Philistine (bass-baritone Bradley Garvin), a Messenger (tenor Mark Schowalter) and an Old Hebrew (bass Dimitry Belosselskiy).

Elina Garanca in "Samson & Delilah"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

As noted, the first act is rather static, with little electricity between the two lead performers. It's a bit dated as well, as one character criticizes the Israelites as being as “weak as women”. After the languid first act, the second act produces more passion (only to be diluted by the writhing third act ballet). Fortunately, this production reunites Alagna and Garanca after their pairing in the Met production of Carmen. In this performance, they were terrific together in the second act, especially in the seduction aria Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix. Naouri was also excellent, in all three acts. The conducting by Sir Mark Elder was fine, leading the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Chorus under Chorus Master Donald Palumbo, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, with Choreography by Austin McCormick. The Live in HD Director was Gary Halvorson and the Live in HD Host was Susan Graham. The new and arguably bizarre Production was by Darko Tresnjak, with Set Design by Alexander Dodge, Costume Design by Linda Cho and Lighting Design by Donald Holder.

As for all that speculation about the secret source of Samson's strength: Hair today.....

Encore HD broadcast presentation will be on Weds. Oct.24th at a theater near you.

No comments:

Post a Comment