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A Fascinating Set

Opera recordings conducted by Stokowski -
reviewed by

'It leaves one wishing that they'd recorded more.'

Stokowski - Saint-Saens - Samson and Delilah. © 2005 Cala Records

Leopold Stokowski is not a conductor that one immediately associates with opera recordings. But once Toscanini had retired early in 1954 it was Stokowski who was kept busy recording with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. He was engaged to record excerpts from Samson et Dalila despite never having conducted the opera. Remarkably, he conducted from a vocal score with the orchestral cues marked in. Though Risë Stevens was a noted Dalila and Robert Merrill first sang the role of High Priest at the Metropolitan in 1949, tenor Jan Peerce had never sung the role of Samson on stage.

But Stokowski's view of the score has many virtues, notably a wonderfully dramatic flexibility, which can be heard here in the Love Duet [listen -- track 6, 4:05-5:15]. As might be expected, Stokowski and the orchestra create a luxuriant view of Saint-Saëns's orchestration. He also ably assists Stevens and Merrill in creating real drama in their Act 2 scene [listen -- track 4, 0:35-1:38]. Merrill makes a strong High Priest, creating drama in what is, here, a relatively small role.

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Copyright © 25 April 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


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