[Met Performance] CID:204680

Samson et Dalila
Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, December 6, 1965

Samson et Dalila (123)
Camille Saint-Saëns | Ferdinand Lemaire
James McCracken

Rita Gorr

High Priest
Gabriel Bacquier

Justino Díaz

Old Hebrew
Bonaldo Giaiotti

Robert Schmorr

Robert Goodloe

Robert Nagy

Edith Jerell

Georges Prêtre

Nathaniel Merrill

Robert O'Hearn

Zachary Solov

Samson et Dalila received seven performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Eric Saltzman in the Herald Tribune

'Samson' Spectacular Time at the Met

It was "Samson et Dalila" spectacular time at the Metropolitan Opera Monday night with a return of the gorgeous Pierre-Loti lotus-blossom production of Nathaniel Merrill and Robert O'Hearn and featuring two desert stars in Rita Gorr and James McCracken.

If you are going to do that great Philistine epic, Saint-Saens' "Samson," at all this is the way to do it. McCracken is an astonishing strong man Samson. He looks as though he could take on Man Mountain Dean with ease and he even manages to hold back that glorious stentorian tenor most of the time in a fine display of Francophile style and, presumably, so as not to bring down the rafters ahead of time. Miss Gorr was not, to tell the truth, in effective vocal shape; the sound was dull and uninflected. But there was strong singing elsewhere from Gabriel Bacquier and Justino Diaz.

Strongest of all was the orchestra in the skillful hands of Georges Pretre. "Samson" is, if nothing else. a piece of great orchestral clarity and amusing exotic color and Pretre and the men brought it all off just at the right level of elegant sound, dead seriousness and cool play-it-straightmanship.

The production resembles nothing so much as a great Paris salon canvas of about 1888 say, "The Decadence of the Philistines" by Couture. It has what is surely the most torrid love story in the current repertoire - "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" and on a bid yet. Oo la la.

Review 2:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

McCracken Great in Voice and Build

In the book of Judges, Samson slays a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and Metropolitan Opera tenor James McCracken has the build to do it. Last night he looked almost as tall and as circular as the pillars he wrenched apart. This was the first "Samson et Dalila" at the Met this fall and McCracken's first Met appearance in the role. With a chest expanse which must hold the record for history as we know it, McCracken, and the Met too, are fortunate that he has the voice to go along with his Colossus frame. He did some magnificent singing and the French language became his style. At least he handled his rich, robust tenor with a finesse which exceeded, as pure vocalism, any performance I have seen of his overwhelming interpretation of the title role in Verdi's "Otello." He has seemingly limitless resources, and his artistic growth is exciting to watch.,

Pretre, Dynamic, Imaginative

Georges Pretre was back in the pit and, as last season, demonstrated a pulsating, dynamic, imaginative command. His ability to communicate excitement to chorus and orchestra gives this production of "Samson" a rare, vigorous, dramatic drive.

Visually, the 1964 production is among the Metropolitan's most handsome with Robert O'Hearn's sets moving blended gold and orange symbolic abstraction to realism and back again. The filmy pink ballet costumes lend voluptuous color and Zachary Solov's choreography for the orgy in Act III is so successful. It drew an ovation. The second act was the least successful with mezzo-soprano Rita Gorr as Dalila shouting off-pitch with the force of surf in a northeaster. She has tremendous vocal power but seemingly little wish to color or caress her phrases. The seduction scene was the least successful of the night. A pity. When else? Gabriel Bacquier as the High Priest and Justino Diaz as Abimelech were excellent in smaller roles.

The chorus, often silhouetted against the half light should be a third party in the opera's title. And whether whisper or shout, they sang with a will for Pretre and Saint-Saens.

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