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Grand Tier - Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila / Fournet, Vickers

Release Date: 06/13/2006 
Label:  Opera D'oro   Catalog #: 7028   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Oralia DominguezErnest BlancHenk DrissenJon Vickers,   ... 
Conductor:  Jean Fournet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio SymphonyNetherlands Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I don’t know for how long, but right now, this set is available in two separate Opera d’Oro formats. Originally issued in a compact, single jewel box with a plot summary and cue list, it now appears in a standard double jewel box with the aforementioned appurtenances, plus a French/English libretto and a sophisticated appreciation of the performance. It also costs twice as much as the old packaging, which, I suspect, is not long for this world. Plainly, Opera d’Oro considers it a contender. The performance was also available at one time on the Gala label with excerpts from a 1971 Met Samson (Grace Bumbry, Richard Tucker, Serge Baudo) added as a lukewarm bonus which, if little else, served to point up how good the Fournet-led Samson is. Jon Read more Vickers, the obvious cynosure of this 1964 Amsterdam broadcast, had made a studio recording for EMI two years earlier and it remains available. It’s a good performance and what I considered to be its toughest competition, Erato’s Olga Borodina/José Cura/Colin Davis recording, has apparently been relegated to the used-CD bins. The EMI recording, with Georges Prêtre conducting and Rita Gorr as the Philistine seductress, is certainly a good one and my reservations about it are minor: Vickers occasionally sounds off-form, perhaps a bit fatigued, his voice taking on a sort of early-morning huskiness; and Gorr, a powerful mezzo-soprano, sings her role with force and dignity but doesn’t sound particularly seductive—she’s more the vengeful patriot.

On this clear monaural 1964 broadcast, you get Vickers at 100 percent rather than 95 percent, and in Oralia Dominguez you get a sexier, warmer, suppler Dalila. Ernest Blanc repeats his EMI role as the high priest; if you liked him on EMI, you’ll like him here—if not, you won’t. The lesser roles are taken by Dutch singers. Fournet’s leadership seems to be all one could ask for. To the best of my knowledge, he is still alive, which makes him one of two living conductors (if there are others, I missed them) who had recordings issued on 78s; the other is Sir Charles Mackerras. Do you need this performance if you have the EMI reissue? It depends on what value you place on stereophonic sound and whether you need two Jon Vickers Samsons. I narrowly prefer this performance, but it’s a tough choice.

FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

Samson et Dalila, Op. 47 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Oralia Dominguez (Mezzo Soprano), Ernest Blanc (Baritone), Henk Drissen (Bass),
Jon Vickers (Tenor), Peter Van der Bilt (Baritone), Aad de Rijk (Tenor),
Bert Van t'Hoff (Tenor)
Conductor:  Jean Fournet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Symphony,  Netherlands Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Date of Recording: 1964 
Venue:  Live  Amsterdam, The Netherlands 
Language: French 

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