Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Above: Nadia Krasteva is Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson  [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz. courtesy of San Diego Opera]
02 Mar 2013

Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera

Samson and Delilah is the only opera by Camille Saint-Saens that is still regularly performed. He had written two previous operas and would write several more, along with a long list of instrumental pieces including The Carnival of the Animals.

Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Nadia Krasteva is Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz. courtesy of San Diego Opera]

 

In the 1860s the composer was aware of a renewed interest in choral music, so he planned an oratorio on the story of Samson that is found in Chapter sixteen of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. He spoke to the husband of one of his wife's cousins, Ferdinand Lemaire, about writing a libretto for it and the writer said the story would make a good opera. They began working on it as an opera, but other concerns interrupted them.

Fellow composer Franz Liszt, who was interested in producing new works by talented composers, persuaded Saint-Saëns to finish Samson and Delilah, saying that he would produce the completed work at the grand-ducal opera house in Weimar.

The composer tailored the role of Delilah for Pauline Viardot (1821–1910), but by the time the work was finished and could be staged, the singer was too old to perform it. She did, however, organize a private performance of the second act at a friend's home with the composer at the piano. A great admirer of the work, she hoped that this private performance would encourage the director of the Paris Opéra to mount a full production. Although Saint-Saëns completed the score in 1876, no opera houses in France displayed any desire to stage Samson and Delilah.

It was Liszt's support that led to the work being premiered in a German translation on December 2, 1877, in Weimar, where it was a resounding success. But there were many intervening years before it started to become popular in other cities. Its Paris premiere at the Éden-Théâtre did not take place until October 31, 1890, but audiences did give it a warm reception. Over the next two years, performances were staged in Bordeaux, Geneva, Toulouse, Nantes, Dijon, and Montpellier. When the Paris Opéra finally presented the opera on November 23, 1892, audience members and critics alike praised it.

On February 19, 2013, San Diego Opera presented Samson and Delilah in a traditional production directed by Leslie Koenig. The solid looking, effective scenery was designed by Douglas Schmidt and the soft colored costumes were originated by Carrie Robbins. All were constructed at San Francisco Opera. Koenig’s direction told the story in a straightforward manner and made no attempt to update or change the setting from the borders of Judah, Dan, and Philistia in the late twelfth or early eleventh century BCE.

Clifton Forbis was a dramatic Samson who showed us the wages of his character’s sins. Vocally, he started off slowly, but it is a long role and his pacing was good after the first scene. His best singing was heard during the poignant third act aria, ‘Vois ma misère, helas’. Tall and slim Nadia Krasteva was a sensual, seductive Delilah who fully captured her man when she sang ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ (My Heart Opens at your Voice). Her voice had a purple velvet sound and the low notes of her chest voice were exquisite. As the High Priest of Dagon, Anooshah Golesorki commanded the stage as he sang with a stentorian voice. His second act duet with Krasteva was quite memorable.

Gregory Reinhart was a compelling Old Hebrew and Mikhail Svetlov a fiery Abimilech. Doug Jones, Scott Sikon, and Greg Fedderly gave interesting portrayals as Philistines. Since the composer originally thought to write this work as an oratorio, the chorus is very important. Under the direction of Charles F. Prestinari, the San Diego Opera Chorus sang Saint-Saens’ rousing music with great gusto. Conductor Karen Keltner is an expert on both French language and French music, so she coached the singers’ diction in addition to leading the orchestra in this idiomatic performance. She brought out Saint-Saens’ love for the exotic and her interpretation was particularly impressive in the ‘Bacchanal’. Her tempi were well thought out and the playing was rich and translucent. Kenneth von Heidecke’s choreography was fun to watch and the enticing music made the entire audience want to join the dance.

Maria Nockin


Cast and Production Information

Clifton Forbis, Samson; Nadia Krasteva, Delilah; Mikhail Svetlov, Abimelech; Anoosha Golesorki, High Priest of Dagon; Scott Sikon and Doug Jones, Philistines; Greg Fedderly, Philistine Messenger; Gregory Reinhart, Old Hebrew; Karen Keltner, conductor; Leslie Koenig, director; Kenneth von Heidecke, choreographer; Charles F. Prestinari, chorus master; Douglas Schmidt, scenery; Carrie Robbins, costumes; Gary Marder, lighting design. San Diego Opera, Civic Theater, Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):