This biblical tale follows the struggle between the Hebrews and the Phillistines and the downfall of Samson at the hands of the temptress Dalila.
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In an introductory talk for this production, conductor Julius Rudel revives the time-honored discussion of whether Samson et Dalila should be treated as an oratorio (Saint-Saëns's original intention) or an opera (his final decision). The San Francisco production chooses a solidly operatic approach, leaning more toward the style of a Hollywood biblical epic than that of an oratorio. Operatic features include colorful (even downright exotic) costumes, brisk tempos, hyperactive choreography for the orgiastic bacchanale, generally brisk tempos, and a spectacular ending that brings down not only the curtain but the scenery.
The story of Samson and Delilah excites skepticism in many modern minds; it is the story of a superhero who loses his power because of a haircut, suffers captivity, is blinded and humiliated, and gets his strength back just long enough for a spectacular suicide that destroys his enemies. The San Francisco visuals, exaggerating improbabilities, do not make it easy to suspend disbelief. But the singers go right to the psychological and emotional heart of this tale of seduction, betrayal, repentance, and expiation. Shirley Verrett and Placido Domingo were their generation's most celebrated exponents of the title roles. They were at their peak in 1981 when this performance took place, and they generate enormous emotional power. They are well-supported by an excellent cast, notably Wolfgang Brendel (Le Grand-Prêtre de Dagon) and Arnold Voketaitis (Abimelech). --Joe McLellanFrom the Back Cover:
Placido Domingo and Shirley Verrett star in the title roles of this live recording from the San Francisco Opera of Saint-Saens' great three-act opera, which closely follow the biblical tale of the struggle between the Hebrews and the Philistines and the downfall of Samson in the hands of the temptress Dalila. The colorful and evocative sets and costumes reflect Saint-Saens' melodic and sensual score, beautifully conducted by Julius Rudel.
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