SAMSAON PRAYS FOR STRENGTH IN THE FINAL MOMENTS
by Dwight Casimere
Photos:Ken Howardl/Metropolitan Opera
With a glitzy new production by a Broadway, Tony Award-winning team, and the star power of opera's most celebrated onstage couple, the Metropolitan Opera opened its 2018-19 Season with Camille Saint-Saens's Samson Et Dalila. Tenor Roberto Alagna fighting a developing cold and his made-in-heaven stage partner , the beauteous Elina Garanca, brought new life to the Metropolitan Opera's 228th performance of the biblical epic.
With a glitzy new production by Tony Award winning director Darko Tresnjak (2014 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and 2015 Obie Award for The Killer) in his Met debut, and sets by Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle multiple nominee, Set Designer Alexander Dodge, also in his Met debut (Broadway-A Gentlemen's Guide, Anastasia, Present Laughter, Hedda Gabler. Opera-Dinner at Eight, Cosi fan tutti at Minnesota Opera), costumes by Tony winner Linda Cho (A Gentlemen's Guide), lighting design by Tony-nominated Lighting Designer Donald Holder (South Pacific, the Lion King) and choreography by Company XIV founder and Met Veteran (Rusalka, 2017 Met debut), Austin McCormick, this is one of the Met's most memorable season opening productions.
Tenor Roberto Alagna seemed to be fighting an impending cold, which prevented him from putting the full luster and power of his voice into his most heartfelt arias, but the emotional fireworks between he and his Dalila, Elina Garanca, were palpable. There is no more sensuous duet than the rapturous love song between Samson and Dalila in Act II. The orgy scene, with barely clad dancers choreographed by McCormick was more like something off the Wintergreen stage than the Met, but it really spiced things up in the third act. Love those heady Philistines!
The set was dominated by a giant split head of Dagon. Alana's voice barely scaled to the heights demanded by the final, temple implosion, and the delayed, wimpy lighting and smoke effects sort of undercut the impact of the final scene, in what was an otherwise satisfactory performance. Cho's eye-popping costumes, featuring tons of pink feathers, ensured that there were no nodding sleepyheads during the compact three hour performance.
Samson et Dalila, live on the Metropolitan Opera stage Oct. 13-20 with a Saturday matinee MetLiveHD performance in theaters worldwide Oct. 20 at 12:55pm ET, with an Encore Presentation Weds. Oct. 24 at 1pm and 6:30pm. Check metopera.org or fathom events.com for tickets and locations.
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