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134 minutes | UK | 2005 | French with English subtitles
Royal Opera Covent Garden production
Starring Jon Vickers as Samson and Shirley Verrett as Dalila
Conducted by Colin Davis
This opera is based on the Biblical tale found in the Book of Judges of the Old Testament. This spectacular production is set in Gaza of 1150 B.C. and opens with the Jews mourning that Jehovah has forsaken them to Philistine bondage; Samson rebukes their lack of faith. When the Philistine commander, Abimélech arrives and derides Jehovah, Samson kills him; his soldiers flee in panic. Dalila, Samson’s Philistine lover, appears in the next scene; her maidens dance seductively for him. He ignores the Chief Rabbi’s warning to beware of Dalila.
Act II is set in the valley of Sorek where Dalila lives. The Philistine High Priest calls on and urges her to ascertain the secret of his great power. She promises to do so. When Samson, despite his earlier decision to end his relationship with her, comes to meet her, she ensnares him with feigned love and gets him to reveal that his strength is in his hair. She then cuts it and renders him powerless. The Philistine soldiers who have hidden themselves close by then rush in to apprehend and blind him.
In Act III, Samson ceaselessly pushes a grist mill in a dungeon and hears the Jewish people castigating him for leaving them defenceless. Some days later he is led into the Temple of Dagon where a bacchanal ceremony is being held. The High Priest and Dalila taunt him. He requests his escort to lead him to the two main pillars of the temple and prays to Jehovah to restore his former strength. Then he stretches out his arms to the two pillars and with all his strength pushes them apart bringing down the entire temple and killing everyone in it including himself.
Two of Dalila’s arias in this opera are particularly well known: “Printemps qui commence” (“Spring begins”) and “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens itself to your voice”). The latter is one of the most popular pieces in the mezzo-soprano / contralto repertoire.
Refreshments will be served after the screening.
Ambassador Alan Nazareth
Ambassador Nazareth served as India’s ambassador to several countries including Egypt and Mexico, as Deputy High Commissioner in London and Consul General in New York. He was Director General of the ICCR during the Festivals of India in Britain, USA and France, and is an opera aficionado.