Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: How we get to Samson's heroic first utterance (The opening scene of Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Dalila," part 2)


In this piano-accompanied 1906 Fonotipia recording, the great tenor Léon Escalais makes quite a sound as he sings something resembling Samson's opening solo, "Arrêtez, ô mes frères." (Um, no, that silly "Look, Maman, I sing high" ending isn't the composer's.) Note that we have French and English texts below.

by Ken

I keep wanting to refer to Samson's "Arrêtez, ô mes frères" as his "entrance" solo, but the text is explicit that he's already onstage among his fellow Hebrews during the preceding choruses. Could there be such a thing as an "emergence [as opposed to "entrance"] number"? We heard quite a lot of this solo in the first part of our investigation of this opening scene of Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila ("Introducing Saint-Saëns' Samson, the second-angriest man in opera"). But in Part 1 we left a significant gap between what we heard of those opening choruses and Samson's emergence. We also left a gap between "Arrêtez" and Samson's next solo, "L'as-tu donc oublié." This week we're going to be plugging those gaps, and the larger first one we're actually going to plug tonight!

I thought we'd start this preview by hearing "Arrêtez" again, but in a bit of context: including a bit of the portion of choral whining from Samson's fellow Hebrews, which is to say what finally prompts Samson to open his mouth. So here it is from a small assortment of tenors, some of whom we've heard, and one of whom we haven't.

SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila: Act I, Chorus of Hebrews, "Dieu! As-tu rompu cette sainte alliance?" ("God! Have you broken that sacred alliance?") . . . Samson, "Arrêtez, ô mes frères!" ("Stop, o my brothers!")
Have you broken that holy alliance,
divine promises received by our forefathers?

José Luccioni (t), Samson; Chorus and Orchestra of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris, Louis Fourestier, cond.
 EMI, recorded September 1946

Ludovic Spiess (t), Samson; Romanian Radio and Television Chorus and Orchestra (Bucharest), Kurt Adler, cond. Electrecord, recorded May-June 1969

Mario del Monaco (t), Samson; Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Fausto Cleva, cond. RCA, recorded 1958

Jon Vickers (t), Samson; Choeurs René Duclos, Orchestra of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Georges Prêtre, cond. EMI, recorded Sept. 25-Oct. 10, 1962

REMINDER: In Part 1, I included the vocal score pages for Samson's "Arrêtez," so listeners can see how the music is shaped if you wish -- something that might have been beneficial to M. Escalier (or maybe not; he seems to have preferred his rewrite of the rhythmic structure).



Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home