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Saint-Saëns : Samson et Dalila

Saint-Saëns : Samson et Dalila

12 Sep 2006
4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
This recording has become a firm favourite in my collection. There is nothing in the production or the performance of the artists and orchestra that can be faulted. I am biased. I believe Jose Cura will turn out to be the finest tenor we have ever heard. His performance is assured and sound. 'Vois Ma Misere' is beautifully and plaintively sung - a great contrast to the rousing 'Israel romp ta chaines' Olga Borodina has a rich voice full of passion and feeling. Her rendition of 'Mon Coeur S'ouvre A Ta Voix' is as fine as any previous recording. The petulence and cunning of Delila show through in her voice, particularly in Act 2. All the supporting roles are well played, as is the chorus and orchestra. You cannot fail to be moved by the opening choral tracks.
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By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Sept. 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Saint-Saens had very little religious faith, and he was not much of a ladies' man either. The theme of Samson and Dalila might seem at first glance to be an odd choice for him, but whatever we think of his music one thing he was unquestionably was a consummate professional. He never did anything badly. Tovey in one of his silly modes disparages Saint-Saens as too clever by half, not really a gentleman. Myself, I don't rate him the equal of, say, Smetana far less of Dvorak, but when it came to handling a libretto that would have brought out the amateur in both of those Saint-Saens can show them the door.

He originally planned to treat this story as an oratorio, but considering who had done that before him he was wise to go down the operatic route. Reading through the libretto before listening, I sensed a problem with the first act. There is a bit of a scuffle between Samson and Abimelech, but otherwise it consists mainly of speechifying, and there is a lot of choral antiphony between the respective votaries of Jehovah and Dagon. Oratorio all the way, you might think, but Saint-Saens carries it off very well as drama. In the later acts the hand of the master shows in the long duet between the two principals, with the deception, Samson's indecision and Dalila's suppressed hatred beautifully suggested; and the sense of timing in Samson's final turning of the tables on the Philistines is admirable.

Besides the direction, the vital element in this opera is the two lead parts. I would say that Borodina is very good, but that Cura as Samson is absolutely magnificent. He has the right ringing tone for the great proclamations, but he can manage his voice superbly in a despairing pianissimo as well.
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By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 9 Mar. 2010
Format: Audio CD
This must be the best thing Cura has done on disc. If you need convincing, listen to the heart-breaking intensity and pathos of his soft singing over the pulsing orchestral accompaniment, simulating the treadmill to which the blinded Samson is chained, in "Vois ma misère, hélas!" at the beginning of Act III: sublime. He has reserves of power, too, for the more declamatory sections and there is none of the patchiness which at times has affected his singing. Borodina has a luscious mezzo voice, and while she cannot muster the erotic intensity of Callas or the Gallic frisson and clarity with the text of Hélène Bouvier in the classic 1946 recording, she has stage experience and enough temperament to carry it off. Colin Davis treats this scorned, carefully wrought, music with respect and brings to it the same energy he evinces in his Berlioz recordings, such that the variety and passion of the supposedly cool Saint-Saens' score have every chance to make their mark. There are some wonderful set pieces in this opera, both orchestral (the famous "Bacchanale", for example) and vocal - my favourite being the trio "Je viens célébrer la victoire", immortalised in the vintage acoustic recording with Caruso, Louise Homer and Marcel Journet.

The recorded sound is excellent. My deduction of one star reflects the frustrating inadequacy of the supporting rôles, with the honourable exception of Robert Lloyd's sonorous Old Hebrew. Both the Abimélech and Lafont's High Priest are blustery and unlovely of tone; a pity, especially as orchestra and chorus are on top form under Davis.
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