Friday, August 30, 2013

Samson et Dalila - It's on YouTube

EDIT/ I forgot two very important things. First, this video in particular has no subtitles, so if you can't understand French I can recommend this wonderful website called Opera Folio. There you can find translations to English, Spanish, Italian, German and French to a LOT of opera's librettos. Second, if you like me, like to keep coming back to these videos and watching them 3275802598 times I'd download the Freemake Video Downloader. It's quite wonderful to have this, you can download anything from YouTube and almost any other video you find online. You can also only download the mp3 of the video and have the audios to put on your Ipod, which is what I do, most of my audios are from YouTube videos.   

I decided to create a little something fun for the blog. I’m calling it “It's on YouTube”. I’m basically going to suggest something I’ve watched via YouTube that I really liked every week. Because it’s thanks to YouTube (also) that I feel in love with opera.

So the first opera I’m going to suggest is Camille Saint-Saens’s most famous opera, Samson et Dalila. I’ve watched this opera for the very first time just this week and feel in love with it.
This production in particular is rather special, we have Placido Domingo as Samson commemorating his 30th anniversary of performances at the Met. And that was like 15 years ago, in 1998! It’s odd seeing these dates because I was a little devil of 8 at that time who couldn’t even in my wildest dreams imagine of becoming an opera singer. Life is crazy, you know. Anyways so we get a pretty cool interview with Placido before the opera begins. He talks about these 30 years at the Met and how his career and voice have developed and about young talent. Plus, after curtain call the Met pays a fantastic homage to Placido, with gifts and speeches. It’s really hard not to cry watching this, it’s rather beautiful, Placido himself cries.
In this production we also have the exquisite Olga Borodina as Dalila. I don’t think there’s anybody else nowadays who can hold a candle to her Dalila. She has a certain spice to her person that I love, and she brings it all on to the table in her performances. I guess I have a thing for Slavic singers, they have a velvety quality to their voices that I just love. But at the same time that there is velvet there’s also point and loads of projection and that for me I think is the perfect combination. If you want to check some of Borodina’s more recent works I’d suggest seeing her in Adriana Lecouvreur as the Principessa at the ROH and in Aida as Amneris at the Met.  
The story is based on the biblical tale that most of us know. Samson frees the Hebrews from slavery with his incredible strength and they take over the city. But along comes Dalila, who at the beginning you think is really smitten with him. But no, she’s really quite a vengeful thing whose sole purpose is to see Samson defeated. But poor Samson totally falls for her and that’s his damnation. I’m not going to expand much because I think you guys should see the opera for yourselves.

What I liked in this production, apart from the fantastic singing for course, was the use of color. We have the Hebrews wearing grays, whites and blues, very simple cut clothing. Of course they are slaves so they don’t have much luxury at hand. But I feel like these colors represent their religion and most importantly Samson’s chastity. Now, I say that because in Samson’s first encounter with Dalila the scenery takes different colors, a great navy blue takes the sky and all the women in hot oranges, pinks and reds. But not as RED as what we have for the Philistines, who have enslaved the Hebrews. They are actually ALL red, head to toe. What the colors are trying to show is that there’s a connection between Dalila and the Philistines but also that her hot colors go against everything Samson believes. She represents sex and carnal sin, that is irresistible, after all, Samson is only human.
I just noticed this, she has the hands print of the Philistines on her dress, Samson is freaking blind!
As we continue the opera in act 2 we are taken to a location that also hints the reds from the Philistines but with Dalila’s hot pink gown we can see seduction is going to take place. But then at act 3 she chooses a vibrant green color to contrast with all the red of the Philistines, as if saying we were together in this but I’m so not one of you.

Another amazing thing in this production is Borodina’s acting. Really, at first I was very confused. In her first scene she’s so convincing that she’s really in love with Samson I totally feel for it. There is only ONE moment on act one where she gives a rather scary evil look when Samson isn’t looking that made me think again. Then at act two the mask really comes off and she reveals her true purposes with such hate and determination it almost doesn’t seem like it’s the same person. And when Samson comes along she’s completely different. Because I think she’s not acting as if someone who is pretending to be in love, I think she approaches this as someone who is REALLY in love. To show how persuasive and fantastic actress Dalila is. Her rendition of “Mon Coeur S’ouvre Á Ta Voix” is so convincing and heartfelt that I think he could fool just about anybody. And damn her, because she wins us over with her beautiful music, voice and gestures, at least she totally won me over!

Well, go watch it people, it’s golden! Cheers!

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