[Met Performance] CID:170430

Samson et Dalila
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 29, 1955

Debut : Hubert Farrington

Samson et Dalila (93)
Camille Saint-Saëns | Ferdinand Lemaire
Ramon Vinay

Risë Stevens

High Priest
Martial Singher

Norman Scott

Old Hebrew
Nicola Moscona

Gabor Carelli

Calvin Marsh

James McCracken

Carmen De Lavallade

Hubert Farrington [Debut]

Pierre Monteux

Dino Yannopoulos

Set Designer
Ellen Meyer

Zachary Solov

Samson et Dalila received four performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Robert Sabin in the 1/1/56 issue of Musical America

The season's first performance of Saint-Saens' opera-oratorio "Samson et Dalila" was principally notable for the masterly interpretation of Pierre Monteux, who had not conducted this work at the Metropolitan Opera since the season of '18-'19. It was indeed the broadest, most stylistically perceptive treatment of the score that I have ever encountered, and it made me enjoy many things in the music that I had previously overlooked. Instead of hurrying through the opera, Mr. Monteux gave every note its proper accent, every phrase its full expressive value; yet he did not let the music drag, or kill its rhythmic propulsion. Like Fritz Stiedry, Mr. Monteux has been reproached by some of our speed-demon critics for his deliberate tempos, but the truth is that "Samson et Dalila" (like "Parsifal" and "Die Meistersinger") was never intended to be taken at subway-rush-hour speed. Internal evidence (including the composer's markings) and musical logic offer abundant clues to the proper pace, and the conductor who hurries the music along is simply missing a wealth of detail and significance.

Ramon Vinay and Rise Stevens, in the title roles, were familiar figures in this cast, but Martial Singher was heard for the first time at the Metropolitan as the High Priest, as were James McCracken, as a Philistine Messenger, and Calvin Marsh, as the Second Philistine. Norman Scott was the Abimelech; Nicola Moscona, the Old Hebrew; and Gabor Carelli, the First Philistine.

It was a pleasure to hear French sung so clearly and beautifully as Mr. Singher sang it, nor was his acting any less skillful and well-schooled. He made a rounded and believable human being of the High Priest, and not a stock figure. The scene between Dalila and the High Priest in Act II was highly dramatic, thanks to this unusually vivid performance.

At times, Miss Stevens' voice was positively voluptuous in tonal color and amplitude, even if she was not always in best estate at the extremes of the range. Her acting was prevailingly routine, but it should be added that she looked stunning, especially in the temple scene in Act III. The canonic duet with Mr. Singher was vigorously sung, and her taunting of Samson was vividly projected.

Mr. Vinay was deeply moving as the unfortunate Samson, heroic in stature, dignified in bearing, and tragically intense in the mill and temple scenes. He also sang more freely and lustrously than he had earlier this season.

Dino Yannopoulos had retained the football-rushes for the chorus in Act I that had been one of the less happy features of the 1953 production of this opera. And the singing of that excellent body was not up to its best standards, despite some admirable pianissimo passages. Zachary Solov's choreography for "Samson et Dalila" is still too full of fussy detail, but it was fierily performed on this occasion and won the most enthusiastic applause of the evening.

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