Sunday Classics: Meet Saint-Saëns's Dalila
Including a recording that Maria Callas refused
to allow to be released (don't ask me why!)
Just 'cause we slipped into Act II of Samson et Dalila in Friday night's preview is no reason to go crazy and think we're going to make it to Act III today, but here's the famous "Bacchanale," from the Met's 1983 Centennial Gala, conducted by James Levine.
Friday night we heard Maria Callas's riveting 1961 recording of Dalila's Act II-opening "Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse!," one of three excerpts from Samson et Dalila she recorded for the first Callas in Paris LP. Only two of those excerpts -- "Amour! viens aider" and the Act I solo "Printemps qui commence" -- found their way onto the record, though. Callas refused to allow the recording of the opera's best-known number (maybe along with the "Bacchanale") to be released, and in fact it wasn't in her lifetime, not slipping into print until 1982, five years after she died.
Our goal today is going to be to get (finally!) to the end of Act I of Samson. But we're going to digress again into Act II to hear what has become one of Callas's best-known recordings, the amping up of Dalila's seduction of Samson.
SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila: Act II, Dalila, "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" ("My heart opens at your voice")
My heart opens at your voice like the flowers open
at the kisses of dawn!
But, o my beloved, to better dry my tears,
let your voice speak again!
Tell me that you return to Dalila forever!
Say again to my tenderness
those promises of before, those promises that I loved!
Ah! answer, answer my tenderness!
Fill me, fill me with delight!
Answer my tenderness, etc.
As one sees ears of corn undulating
under a light breeze,
just so my heart flutters,
ready to take comfort
from your voice, which is dear to me!
An arrow is less swift in carrying death
than is your lover to fly into your arms,
to fly into your arms!
Ah! answer etc.
Maria Callas (s), Dalila; Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française, Georges Prêtre, cond. EMI, recorded Mar.-Apr. 1961
IN THE INTEREST OF MAKING OUR WAY TO
THE END OF ACT I, LET'S TAKE ONE SMALL STEP
When we left off in April, the High Priest of Dagon had just discovered the body of Abimélech, the satrap of Gaza, "struck down by slaves," meaning the Israelite rabble newly roused by their young rabble-rouser Samson. He storms off, vowing to make those uppity Hebrews pay. We'll hear the end of that again in the click-through, but for now let's listen to the very next thing that happens: this ravishing orchestral daybreak.
SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila: Act I, Daybreak
Orchestra of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris, Georges Prêtre, cond. EMI, recorded Sept.-Oct. 1962
TO FORGE AHEAD IN ACT I OF SAMSON, CLICK HERE