Samson and Delilah (opera)

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Samson and Delilah (French: Samson et Dalila), Op. 47, is a grand opera in three acts and four scenes by Camille Saint-Saëns to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire. It was first performed in Weimar at the Grossherzogliches (Grand Ducal) Theater (now the Staatskapelle Weimar) on 2 December 1877 in a German translation.

The opera is based on the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah found in Chapter 16 of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. It is the only opera by Saint-Saëns that is regularly performed. The second act love scene in Delilah's tent is one of the set pieces that define French opera. Two of Delilah's arias are particularly well known: "Printemps qui commence" and "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" ("My heart opens itself to your voice", also known as "Softly awakes my heart"), the latter of which is one of the most popular recital pieces in the mezzo-soprano/contralto repertoire.

Contents

Composition

In the middle of the 19th century, a revival of interest in choral music swept France, and Saint-Saëns, an admirer of the oratorios of Handel and Mendelssohn, made plans to compose an oratorio on the subject of Samson and Delilah as suggested by Voltaire's libretto Samson for Rameau. The composer began work on the theme in 1867, just two years after completing his first (and as then yet unperformed) opera, Le timbre d'argent. Saint-Saëns had approached Ferdinand Lemaire, the husband of one of his wife's cousins, about writing a libretto for the oratorio but Lemaire convinced the composer that the story was better suited to an opera.[1] Saint-Saëns later wrote:

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