[Met Performance] CID:122100
Samson et Dalila {65} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/8/1937.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 8, 1937


Samson..................René Maison
Dalila..................Bruna Castagna
High Priest.............Julius Huehn
Abimélech...............Norman Cordon
Old Hebrew..............Emanuel List
Philistine..............Max Altglass
Philistine..............Wilfred Engelman
Messenger...............Angelo Badà
Dance...................Daphne Vane

Conductor...............Maurice Abravanel

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Koeck-Meyer Studios
Costume designer........Irene Sharaff
Choreographer...........George Balanchine

[Irene Sharaff designed only the ballet costumes.]

Samson et Dalila received one performance this season.

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

Mme. Castagna Sings Dalila at Metropolitan

Saint-Saens "Samson et Dalila," Revived Year Ago After Long Absence, Heard

Rene Maison Is Samson

Huehn, List, Cordon and Bada Also Have Roles

Saint-Saens's "Samson et Dalila," which had been revived at the Metropolitan Opera House a year ago after eleven year's absence from the active list, had its first performance in the theater last night with Rene Maison again as the Biblical hero. Dalila, sung last season by Gertrud Wetergren, was portrayed this time by Bruna Castagna, who, while she had sung the role in 1934 at the Hippodrome, had had no opportunity to tempt Samson from the path of patriotism at the Metropolitan. Julius Huehn was the Philistine High Priest, with Emanuel List as the Old Hebrew, Norman Cordon as Abimelech, and Angelo Bada, Max Altglass and Wilfred Engelman as various Philistines.

Judging by the copious applause the music of Saint-Saens's only stage work which still sees occasional performance still has a marked appeal, in addition to the individual accomplishments of its interpreters, and there are parts of the score such as Dalila's two principal arias and the Bacchanale which will often be heard in public performance for many years to come. As for the score as a whole, however, it will hardly be unanimously credited with unscathed survival from the ravages of time; in this rehearing, it exhibited Saint-Saens's noted craftsmanship and effectiveness, especially from a descriptive point of view. Yet, it has paled considerably, the melodies are cautious and pleasing, but not particularly cogent; the Orientalism is well wrought, but yet an example of a conventional European of an eastern atmosphere. The work as a whole is the expression of an exceptionally talented musical creator, but one who penetrated but a limited distance into the dramatic possibilities of the story.

Mme. Castagna's Dalila had made an auspicious impression at the Hippodrome, and her impersonation of the role last night was pleasing to the eye, often, but not unexceptionally, dramatically convincing. Her singing did not altogether fulfill expectations aroused by her notable Carmen, Amneris or Adalgisa; some of the top notes were forced, and the middle vocal register, while firm, fluent and well produced, lacked some of the sensuous warmth which is necessary for the role and which has often been apparent in this laudable artist's singing. In the second act, her tones carried most emotional conviction, not so much in "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix," as in her expression of scorn for Samson near the close of the act.

Mr. Maison's Samson, already a familiar figure here, is well suited to the part in appearance and stature, and was creditably sung for the most part. There was, however, some unevenness in clarity and quality of tone, one climactic note in the second act, while very effective in volume, faring noticeably amiss in the above respects. Both in voice and in histrionic ability, he did some of his best work in the semi-final scene as the Philistines' laboring and blinded prisoner.

Mr. Huehn, in commendable voice, gave a rather pedestrian impersonation as the High Priest. Comment on the other members of the cast and on the American Ballet in the Bacchanale must, with a necessarily incomplete hearing of the work, await a later occasion. The orchestra was in good form under the direction of Maurice de Abravanel, who did his best to set forth the assets of the score.

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