SAINT-SAÀNS: Samson et Dalila

Music composed by Camille Saint-SaÎns (1835-1921). Libretto by Ferdinand

First Performance: 2 December 1877, Grossherzogliches
Theater, Weimar.

Principal Characters:
Samson Tenor
AbimÈlech (Abimelech), satrap of Gaza Bass
The High Priest of Dagon Baritone
First Philistine Tenor
Second Philistine Bass
A Philistine Messenger Tenor
Dalila (Delilah) Mezzo-Soprano
An Old Hebrew Bass

Setting: Ancient Gaza.


Act I:

Palestine, 1150 B.C. In a square in Gaza, a group of Hebrews beg Jehovah
for relief from their bondage to the Philistines; Samson, their leader,
rebukes them for their lack of faith. When the Philistine commander,
AbimÈlech, denounces the Hebrews and their God, Samson kills him and leads
the Hebrews away. The High Priest of Dagon comes from the Philistine temple
and curses Samson’s prodigious strength, leaving with the slain man’s bier.
An Old Hebrew praises the returning Samson. The outer walls of the temple
disappear to reveal Samson’s former lover, the Philistine woman Dalila, who
invites him to come that night to her nearby dwelling. She and her maidens
dance seductively for Samson, who becomes deaf to the Old Hebrew’s dour

Act II:

In the vale of Sorek, Dalila calls on her gods to help her ensnare and
disarm Samson, promising the High Priest to find a way to render the hero
powerless. Samson appears, passionate in spite of himself; when Dalila has
him in her power, she feigns disbelief in his constancy and demands that he
show his love by confiding in her the secret of his strength, weeping when he
refuses. Samson hears rolling thunder as a warning from God but cannot resist
following Dalila inside. Not long afterward, having finally learned that the
secret of Samson’s strength is his long hair, she calls to hidden Philistine
soldiers, who rush in to capture and blind Samson.

Act III:

In a dungeon at Gaza, the sightless Samson pushes a grist mill in a
circle, praying for his people, who will suffer for his sin. He hears their
voices castigating him.

During a bacchanal in the Temple of Dagon, Dalila and the High Priest
taunt Samson. When they force him to kneel to Dagon, he asks a boy to lead
him to the two main pillars of the temple. Samson prays to Jehovah to restore
his strength, and with a mighty effort he pulls down the pillars and the
temple, crushing himself and his foes.

Click here
for the complete libretto (original French).

image_description=Samson et Dalila by Petrus Paulus Rubens (1609-10)
first_audio_name=Camille Saint-SaÎns: Samson et Dalila
Windows Media Player
second_audio_name=Camille Saint-SaÎns: Samson et Dalila
product_title=Camille Saint-SaÎns: Samson et Dalila
product_by=Ramon Vinay (Samson), Ebe Stignani (Dalila), Antonio Manca-Serra (High Priest of Dagon), Giovanni Amodeo (AbimÈlech), Iginio RiccÛ (Old Hebrew), Piero de Palma (Philistine Messenger), Nino Valentini (First Philistine), Aldo Terrosi (Second Philistine), Coro e Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo, Fritz Rieger (cond.)
Live performance, 26 February 1955, Naples (Sung in Italian)