<< -- 2 -- Robert Hugill A TRIUMPHANT CLOSE
Denyce Graves was playing Delila here for the first time, having previously appeared at the Royal Opera as Carmen. She presented a luscious curvy figure and wore a luxuriant dark wig -- something that seems to have developed since this production's early performances. Her rich voice was warm and attractive with a hint of maturity, a characteristic that helped to add depth to Delila's rather one-sided presentation in the opera. In Act 1 she seemed a little too stately, her seduction of Samson was not as overwhelming as it should have been.
Act 2's setting in Delila's garden is as handsome as ever. Here, at the opening of the Act, Graves gave us a hint of blowsiness, the feeling that Delila was rather worn round the edges. Another touch that helps take her away from the curvy ingenue image. Her duet with Caproni's High Priest lacked that extra edge, that spark of impetuousness. But the love duet with Cura was stunningly erotic. How could it not be, with two such attractive people lying entwined together. Both managed to make light of the technical difficulties of singing such a duet whilst prone in a clinch. Afterwards Graves showed her metal as she turned vixen, the air crackled. But then, disappointingly, Saint Saëns sanitises proceedings by having the crucial denouement take place off stage.
Act 3 opens with Samson alone, chained to the mill wheel. Here Cura was on tremendous form. He might lack the ultimate white hot intensity that Vickers brought to the scene but his strong performance was a striking contribution to the evening. He gave a wonderful variety of tone colour, as he had done throughout the opera and he made a profoundly moving figure. In the ensuing ensemble and bacchanale, David Bintley's choreography made the most of what is really a trite and weak scene. But Cura's final contribution, bringing with it the collapse of the Philistine temple, brought the evening to a triumphant close.