Samson et Dalilah

Titillating sexuality in the Bible? What a frivolous thought! That's at least what Camille Saent-Saens' contemporaries said when the composer was planning to write an oratorio about the story of Samson and Dalila. During the 19th century, Biblical stories were largely taboo for the opera with its colorful costumes and sensual arias. Saent-Saens ended up writing an opera called Samson et Dalilah, and this was a courageous step. It would be too good to be true if we were able to watch is response to today's staging of the work at the Metropolitan Opera. Helped by the singers, British stage director Elijah Moshinsky has been able to bring a plethora of stimulating elements on stage. These elements include loud, provocative colors, erotic dances, props that bear phallic symbols, and a strong stage presence of the two main characters -- Placido Domingo who has the charisma and popularity of a pop star, and Denyce Graves, a black mezzo soprano whose picture not only decorates the front pages of opera magazines but also those of American women's magazines. Georg Hirsch saw one of the performances a few days ago.

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