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Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Samson and Delilah (Saint-Saëns) - Synopsis

Samson and Delilah -

(French title: Samson et Dalila)
An Opera by Charles Camille Saint-Saëns

Opera in three acts and four scenes. Music by Saint-Saëns; text by Ferdinand Lemaire. Produced: Weimar, December 2, 1877.


DALILA………………………………….. Mezzo-Soprano
SAMSON………………………………… Tenor
HIGH PRIEST OF DAGON…………….. Baritone
ABIMELECH, satrap of Gaza…………… Bass
AN OLD HEBREW…………………….. Bass

Place: Gaza.
Time: 1136 B.C.

Act I. Before the curtain rises we hear of the Philistines at Gaza forcing the Israelites to work. When the curtain is raised we see in the background the temple of Dagon, god of the Philistines. With the lamentations of the Jews is mixed the bitter scorn of Abimelech. But Samson has not yet expressed a hope of conquering. His drink-inspired songs agitate his fellow countrymen so much that it now amounts to an insurrection. Samson slays Abimelech with the sword he has snatched from him and Israel’s champion starts out to complete the work. Dagon’s high priest may curse, the Philistines are not able to offer resistance to the onslaught of the enemy. Already he Hebrews are rejoicing and gratefully praise God when there appear Philistines’ most seductive maidens, Dalila at their head, to do homage to the victorious Samson. Oh what use is the warning of an old Hebrew? The memory of the love which she gave him when "the sun laughed, the spring awoke and kissed the ground," the sight of her ensnaring beauty, the tempting dances ensnare the champion anew.

Act II. The beautiful seductress tarries in the house of her victim. Yes, her victim. She had never loved the enemy of her country. She hates him since he left her. And so the exhortation of the high priest to revenge is not needed. Samson has never yet told her on what his superhuman strength depends. Now the champion comes, torn by irresolute reproaches. He is only going to say farewell to her. Her allurements in vain entice him, he does not disclose his secret. But he will not suffer her scorn and derision; overcome, he pushes her into the chamber of love. And there destiny is fulfilled. Dalila’s cry of triumph summons the Philistines. Deprived of his hair, the betrayed champion is overcome.

Act III. In a dungeon the blinded giant languishes. But more tormenting than the corporal disgrace or the laments of his companions are the reproaches in his own breast. Now the doors rattle. Beadles comes in to drag him to the Philistines’ celebration of their victory -- (change of scene). In Dagon’s temple the Philistine people are rejoicing. Bitter scorn is poured forth on Samson whom the high priest insultingly invites to sing a love song to Dalila. The false woman herself mocks the powerless man. But Samson prays to his God. Only once again may he have strength. And while the intoxication of the festival seizes on everybody, he lets himself be led between the two pillars which support the temple. He clasps them. A terrible crash -- the fragments of the temple with a roar bury the Philistine people and their conqueror.

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