2004-03-20 Samson et Dalila (C. Saint-Saëns), Royal Opera House (London)

Samson = José Cura
Dalila = Denyce Graves
Abimelech = Tigran Martirossian
High Priest = Bruno Caproni
Ancient Hebrew = Julian Rodescu
First Philistine = James Kennedy
Second Philistine = Jared Holt
Messenger = Hubert Francis

Philippe Jordan, conductor
Director - Elijah Moshinsky
Designs - Sidney Nolan
Lighting - Nick Chelton
Choreography - David Bintley
Samson et Dalila, ROH 20.3.2004

It was those transparent curtains with rather ugly paintings. It was ugly and disturbing. The first was not too bad, the hand of God (that's my interpretation. But it stayed on too long after the opera had started. That curtain was in a way acceptable. The 2nd curtain a very vulgar interpretation of I guess Dalila the enchantress.  That stayed on WAY too lang, and I also  found it offending as a woman. Act 2 is a beautiful act, the most beautiful of all operas I know. The 3rd curtain was a painting of the scapegoat, and it was sickening how long it stayed on.

I found the chorus a bit lack in coordination in their singing.  José Cura came as the most handsome Samson I have ever seen. He sang admirably and it was the best Samson performance I have seen with this Argentine tenor. Denyce Graves was singing Dalila.  No newspapers had prepared me that the American mezzo was 5 months pregnant. That was a shock. Both vocally and in her acting there a sense of her being very careful in conducting herself onstage.  I did long sometimes for these blast of powers that Agnes Baltsa brings onstage.

Denyce Graves voice is compared to Agnes Baltsa a more true mezzo/alto voice, but that said I did not feel a strong stage-presence as I always do with Baltsa.

Act 1: Abimelech and Grand-Pretre, good but not really very memorable. The Old Hebrew, great voice, but it is always when José Cura is there that one can say here is an interesting moment going on. I liked the how Samson came a bit later at the gathering round the Old Hebrew, the little boy who is there guiding Samson in the 3rd act, is here guiding Samson in and The old Hebrew out after he (O.H.) has blessed Samson.

Another thing is that this act ends with Samson removing his Jewish prayer-clothing and leaves with Dalila. They kiss. Curtain down for act 1.

Act 2. As always the most fantastic act with wonderful music and singing. This Dalila really longs for revenge, and she is just pretending to love Samson. No doubt. Her coarse laughter when thinking about that weapons is in perfect shape, her tears will be the un-doing of Samson. In the duet with the Grand-Pretre there is very little energy and dark excitement. But when he leaves Dalila put herself in a melancholy state and then Samson arrives "mal-gré lui-mème". And every-thing is just perfectly acted and sung. Just like it was a movie.  It is real touching and kissing. It is near real sex onstage and there is no vulgarity and everything is very true. In this moment when they are both laying together one could think that Denyce Graves and Cura would rather inhibited by the fact that this Dalila is really pregnant but they are not.  This is very tender love-making, complete trust. Then there is "Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" and the quarrel "Mais, non, que dis-je helàs". And in the end Samson cannot resist he is going inside her house after her, and the Philistine is creeping nearer like tigers. "À moi, Philistines!"- "Trahison!".

Act 3. I hated the Bacchanale and the ballet, the vulgarities put into the scene. The scapegoats were killed and the blood giving to the Philistine. But it had the great aria of Samson wonderfully sung and acted by  José Cura, and of course when he came back onstage for the taunting by the philistines lead by the young boy. And then he got his revenge. But the pillars did not support anything, so how he could kill anyone except those two that were sitting on top of the pillars is a mystery.

And then all the applause. In ROH no applause during the acts only after the curtain was down, and singers did not appear to take the applause until the end of the whole opera.

And after that we waited at the Stage Door for a long time. But then Denyce Graves came out, she left rather quickly,  José Cura came after and he stayed on till all had taken their photos and even talked at length to a lady just outside the stage door. Someone had to come and fetch Cura so that he could go to the restaurant just opposite the ROH's Stage Door.

BRAVO,  José Cura!!!!!!!

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