Delila





In three Acts by FERDINAND LEMAIRE.



With Music by CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS.



German translation by RICHARD POHL.





The first performance of this opera in Dresden on November 13th 1900

proved a great success.



This opera which was written almost thirty years ago did not meet with

a favourable reception either in France or in any other country. In

the year 1877 it was however given in Weimar through Liszt's influence,

but fell flat.



At last it was performed in Rouen in 1890, and in November 1892 the

Grand Opera in Paris followed suit. Since that time it has been one of

the standard operas in Paris.



Its performance in Dresden has shown, that it well deserves its place.--



The vivid contrast between the simple yet stirring choruses of the

Israelites and the pompous and warlike ones of the Philistines, the

exquisite love-song of Samson and Delila, and last but not least the

charming ballet-music, with its truly Eastern character entitle the

opera to rank amongst the very best of the past century.--



The libretto is a biblical one; the scene is laid in Gaza, in

Palestine, 1150 years before Christ.



In the first Act the Israelites, groaning under the yoke of the

Philistines, pray to God for deliverance. They are derided and

insulted by Abi Melech, satrap of Gaza but Samson, unable longer

to endure the blasphemy hurled by the Heathen against the God of

Israel, rises up in mighty wrath, and so inspires his brethren that

they suddenly take up arms, and precipitating themselves on their

unsuspecting oppressors, first slay Abi Melech and then rout the whole

army of the Philistines.



The high-priest of the heathen god Dagon finding his friend slain, vows

to be avenged upon the Israelites, but he is deserted by all his

companions who flee before Samson's wrath.



In the next scene the Israelites return victorious and are greeted with

triumphant songs and offerings of flowers. Even the Philistine Delila,

the rose of Sharon receives them with her maidens, and pays homage to

the hero Samson.



Delila had enthralled him once before, and again her beauty causes him

very nearly to forget his people and his duty; but an aged Israelite

implores him not to listen any more to the arts and wiles of the

enchantress.



In the second Act Delila has an interview with the high-priest, whom

she promises to avenge her people by winning Samson's love once more.



She proudly refuses the reward which the high-priest offers her, for it

is her bitter hatred against the hero, who once loved and then forsook

her, which prompts her to ruin him and to force from him by every means

in her power the secret of his strength.



When the high-priest has left her, Samson comes down the steep

mountain path, drawn to Delila's house against his will. She receives

him with the greatest tenderness, and once more her beauty and her

tears assert their power over him, so that he sinks at her feet and

falters out his love for her. But in vain she tries to lure his secret

from him. At last she leaves with words of contempt and scorn and

enters the house. This proves his undoing. Goaded beyond earthly

power he rushes after her and seals his fate. After a while the

Philistines surround the house and Delila herself delivers her

unfortunate lover, whom she has deprived of his strength by cutting off

his locks, into the hands of his foes.--



In the third Act we find Samson in prison. Bereft of his eye-sight he

has to turn the heavy mill. From the outside the wailings and

reproaches of his Israelite brethren are heard, who have again been

subjugated by their foes. Bitterly repentant Samson implores God to

take his life as the price of his people's deliverance.



In the last scene he is led away to Dagon's temple there to be present

at the festival of the Philistines, celebrated with great pomp in

honour of their victory.



On the conclusion, after an exquisite ballet, Delila presents a golden

cup to the blind hero, and insults and jeers at him for having been

fool enough to believe in her love for him, the enemy of her country.

Samson maintains silence, but when they order him to sacrifice at

Dagon's shrine, he whispers to the child, who is guiding him, to lead

him to the pillars of the temple.



This being done he loudly invokes the God of Israel, and seizing the

pillars tears them down with mighty crash, burying the Philistines

under the ruins of the temple.





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