Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

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In 1864, he began to write his first opera, Le Timbre d'Argent. When it was finished he could not get it staged, but that did not stop him from starting to compose his next stage work, Samson et Dalila. At first, he envisioned it as an oratorio and, as such, it would have been immediately acceptable to the Parisian public. However, his librettist, Ferdinand Lemaire persuaded him to make it an opera.

Denyce Graves as Delilah in the San Diego Opera production of 'Samson and Delilah'. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard
Denyce Graves as Delilah in the San Diego Opera production of 'Samson and Delilah'. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard

Lemaire was a Creole poet, a native of Martinique and a distant relative of the composer. Actually, Saint-Saëns did much of the planning of the opera, which was based on the Book of Judges, while Lemaire turned the story into verse. The work was to be dedicated to and hopefully performed by the Spanish born superstar, Pauline Viardot Garcia (1821-1910). The mezzo-soprano arias were written for her voice. Unfortunately, because of its biblical subject, the opera could not find a welcoming stage and was not performed in Paris until 1890, when Viardot Garcia was more than seventy years old.

Denyce Graves as Delilah. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard
Denyce Graves as Delilah. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard

 

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Copyright © 26 March 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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