Sir Colin Davis, conductor
Samson = Jose Cura, tenor
Dalila = Marina Domashenko, mezzo-soprano
Grand Pretre de Dagon = Juha Uusitalo, baritone
Abimelech = John Relyea, bass
Un Vielliard Hebreu = Robert Lloyd, bass
Mark Stone, baritone
London Symphony Chorus
Saint-Saens Samson and Delilah
Dress Rehearsal, Barbican Hall in the Barbican Centre
It started at 1900 (London Time), I was on Norwegian Time 2000.
Concert version of the opera. They were all in casual wear, nobody more so than José Cura. It was an orchestra and chorus in great form, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, who also conducted Cura's recording of Samson et Dalila on Erato. Marina Domashenko replaced Olga Borodina, who had partnered Cura on the CD. Her voice was rich and she was in role all the time. José Cura sang Samson in a way that showed that this role was also his onstage in an opera house. Of the deep voices Robert Lloyd, the old Hebrew was the most impressive on, but the Great Priest (Juha Uusitalo) and Abimelech was also very good. The sound of the chorus was crystal-clear. On only really missed the stage when the Danse of the Priestesses, or the Bacchanal was played. Or, should I say, that was the time on REALLY missed it.
The "staging" of the concert. Chorus and orchestra all dressed formally in black. The chorus was behind the orchestra, soloists was standing next to the conductor, but closer to the audience than the conductor. In the beginning of "Dieu d'Israel", the chorus is sitting (since this opera starts with almost a whisper), and then they stand of (all at the same time) when the music reaches a higher level of anger/despair. Cura walks casually in, and starts singing "Arretez, o mes freres" while walking and not looking at his score. Then he turns towards the chorus and quietly put his glasses on. They are very discreet , but one can see the reflection from them. Then Abimelech comes in, put his score on the stand and sings, and go out after singing his part (as a dead man, since Samson has just killed him). One needs one's phantasy when the opera is a concert..
Then The Great Priest of Dagon arrived with the 1 Philistine (Alasdair Elliot, tenor) and the 2. Philistine (Mark Stone, baritone) and the Messager (Peter Auty, tenor). Great singing. In the "Hymne de joie", the lower male voices of the chorus stood up, with Robert Lloyd as the old Hebrew. Wow, can that man sing!!! Then it was the female singers turn for "Voici le printemps", marvelously sung. And then Dalila came, at last, Marina Domashenko, "Je viens celebrer la victoire". Dalila came from the left door, Cura & Lloyd from the right. Wonderfully sung, all. Cura & Lloyd left for the Danse of the priestesses, Samson seemed to want to stay on. Dalila, Marina Domashenko, stood there, in role, seeming to almost wanting to danse with all her allure on. Then Dalila sang "Printemps qui commence" and the Old Hebrew tried to dissuade Samson from listening, since it was a concert Cura was not there.
2nd act, my favorite.
The Chorus does not sing in act 2, so they were not there. But Dalila and Great Priest and then José Cura, Samson they all sung and conquered us. Not only singing, but they also acting their part as far as it was possible in a concert, and the limited space. When Dalila exclaims "I hate you", she walks off, Samson is distraught, but the he is off. The orchestra is in fervor. Marina Domashenko walking out the door " A moi, philistines!!", José Cura: "TRAHISON!"
José Cura and the chorus in emotional "Vois ma misere, helas!" Both orchestra and chorus did well in all their parts, and I must say that this chorus really sang so that one heard the words. Great Priest of Dagon and Dalila came onto stage, it was really touching what Cura did with his tormented Samson, soft-voiced in his reproaches to himself, passionate in his defense for God.