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Samson and Delilah, Op. 47

About the Work

Quick Look Composer: Camillle Saint-Saëns
Program note originally written for the following performance:
National Symphony Orchestra: Leonard Slatkin, conductor/Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano Thu., Jan. 22, 2004, 7:00 PM
© Richard Freed
Liszt again is very directly in the picture in respect to Samson et Dalila, the third of Saint-Saëns's 13 operas and the only one to retain even the most tenuous position in the active repertory. In this case, the work would not have been produced, and might not even have been completed, if not for Liszt. When Paris impresarios showed no inclination to accept an opera on a Biblical subject, it was Liszt who encouraged Saint-Saëns to proceed with his work on Samson et Dalila and promised him a production. True to his word, Liszt conducted the work's premiere at Weimar on December 2, 1877.

In setting the familiar Bible story to music (with a libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire), Saint-Saëns gave abundant demonstration of his fine gifts for melody and color, most notably in Dalila's seductive aria "Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix,” in Act II, and in this stunning dance number in Act III accompanying the orgiastic rites in the Temple of Dagon, to one of whose pillars the blinded Samson is chained.