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Saint-Saëns: Samson & Dalila / Chung, Domingo, Meier, Et Al


Release Date: 02/26/2008 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 09185   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Christian PapisDaniel Galvez-VallejoFrançois HarismendySamuel Ramey,   ... 
Conductor:  Myung-Whun Chung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bastille Opera OrchestraBastille Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an auspicious beginning to what one hopes will be a series of recordings of French opera made with the forces of the Bastille under Chung. Without doubt this is the most subtly and expertly conducted performance of this work to appear on CD, excellent as others have been in this respect, and also the best played and sung. Chung's achievement is to have welded the elements of pagan ruthlessness, erotic stimulation and Wagnerian harmony that comprise Saint-Saens's masterpiece into a convincing whole. His success is based on the essentials of a firm sense of rhythm and timing allied to a realization of the sensuousness and delicacy of the scoring. Whether in the lamenting of the Hebrews, the forceful music written for the High Priest, Read more the heroics of Samson, the sensual outpourings of Dalila, or the empty rejoicing of the Bacchanale, he and his orchestra strike to the heart of the matter—and that orchestra plays with Gallic finesse augmented by a dedicated discipline not always a feature of French playing. They obviously respect and admire their conductor. The choral singing, though too distantly recorded, is no less alert and refined, with a full range of dynamic contrast. Everything is as surely felt as in Sir Colin Davis's account (Philips), but it is dispensed with a surer sense of dramatic development.

The cast couldn't be bettered today, certainly superior to Davis's. Meier's Dalila is French cousin to her Kundry, a fascinating portrayal of this equivocal anti-heroine, seductive, wheedling exerting her female wiles with the twin objects of sexual dominance and political command. All her sense of purpose comes out in her early greeting to the High Priest ''Salut a mon pere'', then she's meditative and expectant as Dalila ponders on her power at ''Se pourrait-il''. The set numbers are all sung with the vocal ease and long phrase of a singer at the zenith of her powers. Something of the voluptuous warmth found in Gorr's singing for Pretre (EMI, 12/63—nla) is all that is missing in a performance sung in virtually faultless French. She makes more of the text than Domingo who sings in his now familiar, all-purpose style, admirable in itself, somewhat missing the particular accents brought to this music by the great French tenors of the past. They exist no more and one must salute the sterling and often eloquent tones of Domingo, now more subtly used than they were for Barenboim back in 1978 (DG). I was occasionally conscious that Domingo sounds in a different acoustic from the other singers.

Fondary is superb as the High Priest, firm and rich in tone, commanding and vengeful in delivery: the most compelling interpreter of the part on disc, tout court. Ramey is luxury casting as the Old Hebrew, but as this is a part once sung by Pinza, Ramey probably felt he wasn't slumming it. After an unsteady start, he sings the small but important role with breadth and dignity. As Abimelech, Courtis makes much of little.

Apart from the two reservations already made the recording is admirable, with a wide an spacious sound, and the soloists forward, but well-integrated into the whole. The Bastille would seem a successful venue for opera recording. This must now be the outright recommendation for this work, one that gave me constant and rewarding pleasure. Noel Goodwin's authoritative note is a further bonus.

-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone [reviewing EMI 54470, 2/1993]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Christian Papis (Baritone), Daniel Galvez-Vallejo (Tenor), François Harismendy (Baritone),
Samuel Ramey (Bass), Waltraud Meier (Mezzo Soprano), Alain Fondary (Bass),
Jean-Phillipe Courtis (Baritone), Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Conductor:  Myung-Whun Chung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bastille Opera Orchestra,  Bastille Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Date of Recording: 07/1991 
Venue:  Paris, France 
Language: French 

Sound Samples

Samson Et Dalila - Acte I - Choeur Des Hébreux : Dieu D'Israël ! Ecoute La Prière
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Un Jour, De Nous Tu Détournas Ta Face (Choeur)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Arrêtez, Ô Mes Frères ! (Samson, Choeur)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : L'as-Tu Donc Oublié (Samson, Choeur)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Qui Donc Élève Ici La Voix ? (Abimélech)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : C'est Toi Que Sa Bouche Invective (Samson, Choeur, Abimélech)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Que Vois-Je ! (Le Grand-Prêtre, 1er Philistin, 2ème Philistin)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Seigneur ! La Troupe Furieuse (Un Messager Philistin, 1er Et 2ème Philistins, Le Grand Prêtre)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Hymne De Joie (Choeur, Un Vieillard Hébreu)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Voici Le Printemps Nous Portant Des Fleurs (Les Philistines)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Je Viens Célébrer La Victoire (Dalila, Samson, Le Vieillard Hébreu)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Danse Des Prêtresses
Samson Et Dalila - Acte I : Printemps Qui Commence (Dalila, Le Vieillard Hébreu)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Prélude
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Samson, Recherchant Ma Présence (Dalila)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : J'ai Gravi La Montagne (Le Grand-Prêtre, Dalila)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Qu'importe À Dalila Ton Or ? (Dalila, Le Grand-Prêtre)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Il Faut, Pour Assouvir Ma Haine (Dalila, Le Grand-Prêtre)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Samson, Me Disais-Tu, Dans Ces Lieux (Le Grand-Prêtre, Dalila)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : En Ces Lieux, Malgré Moi, M'ont Ramené Mes Pas. (Samson, Dalila)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Qu'importe À Mon Coeur Désolé (Dalila, Samson)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Mon Coeur S'ouvre À Ta Voix Comme S'ouvrent Les Fleurs (Dalila, Samson)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte II : Mais ! Non ! Que Dis-Je ? Hélas, La Triste Dalila (Dalila, Samson)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Vois Ma Misère, Hélas ! Vois Ma Détresse ! (Samson, Les Hébreux)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : L'aube Qui Blanchit Déjà Les Coteaux (Les Philistins)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Bacchanale
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Salut ! Salut Au Juge D'Israël (Le Grand-Prêtre, Les Philistins, Samson)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Laisse-Moi Prendre Ta Main (Dalila, Les Philistins, Samson)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Allons, Samson, Divertis-Nous (Le Grand-Prêtre, Samson, Les Philistins)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Viens, Dalila, Rendre Grâce À Nos Dieux (Le Grand-Prêtre, Dalila, Les Philistins)
Samson Et Dalila - Acte III : Guidez Ses Pas Vers Le Milieu Du Temple (Le Grand-Prêtre, Samson, Les Philistins, Dalila)

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