Apart from the undercooked final scene, I consider this the best Samson Et Dalila
Samson et Dalila is not one of my favourite operas, but there are some real highlights in the score like the Bacchanale and Dalila's two big arias and the story is at least involving. Before I saw this version, the 1981 San Francisco Domingo and Verrett performance was my favourite, now it is a very, very close second place. I've also seen the 2002 Met Domingo/Olga Borodina and 2009 San Francisco Borodina performances, which were decent but I wasn't completely bowled over by them. In regard to this production, only the final scene was a little lacking, not quite having the cinematic intensity of the 1981 SF production. The picture and sound quality could also have been a tad sharper but I've seen much worse so I personally don't see it as big an issue. The costumes and sets are really striking, fusing Far East and African art in one beautiful-looking package. The staging is mostly very good, the taunting of Samson is very brutal and the Bacchanale, very like a ritual here, is very convincing. The orchestral playing is rich in tone and the balance between instruments is remarkable. Davis delivers a really masterful account of the score, of the four productions this was the one with the best conducting in my opinion. Terrific performances as well, especially from Shirley Verrett, in regards to her you'd be hard pressed to find a better Dalila. She is an entrancingly beautiful woman with many subtle touches and a beautiful yet firm voice. Jon Vckers still has his big booming voice and his magnetic acting ability, one of those who lived the role rather than played it(in terms of other tenors Domingo was the same), and he here proves why Samson was one of his best roles. Jonathan Summers is firm and a commanding figure as the High Priest, in some ways though the role vocally is not that much different from Don Pizarro from Fidelio, both being potentially "shouty" roles. Gwynne Howell has his usual resonant basso voice that just rolls out of his mouth with no effort at all. John Tomlinson is also great, even if he went onto better things like one of the finest Wotans on DVD and a powerful Golaud and Gurnemanz. In conclusion, the best Samson and Dalila on DVD for me if just lacking that extra oomph for the final scene. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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