This CD offers tenor Placido Domingo in one of the best recordings of one of his best roles, in stirringly heroic voice as the headstrong Samson, and believable in his humiliation and regret at the end. Mezzo-soprano Wal... more »traud Meier is more than adequate as the temptress Dalila; as the High Priest, Alain Fondary is marvellously evil, and bass Samuel Ramey makes the most out of the minor role of the Old Hebrew. Myung-Whun Chung conducts with sensitivity, and lets us enjoy the kitschy splendors of the Bacchanale. --Sarah Bryan Miller« less
This CD offers tenor Placido Domingo in one of the best recordings of one of his best roles, in stirringly heroic voice as the headstrong Samson, and believable in his humiliation and regret at the end. Mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier is more than adequate as the temptress Dalila; as the High Priest, Alain Fondary is marvellously evil, and bass Samuel Ramey makes the most out of the minor role of the Old Hebrew. Myung-Whun Chung conducts with sensitivity, and lets us enjoy the kitschy splendors of the Bacchanale. --Sarah Bryan Miller
"Samson & Delila has not been that lucky on records. The classic Vickers/Gorr recording is marred by Georges Prete's boring conducting and by a restricted sound recording. Not much can be said of later sets: Baremboim has a Boris Godunov instead of a Delila in Elena Obraztsova (a classic DG mistake of vocal casting); Christa Ludwig and James King are not very exciting in Giuseppe Patane's 1973 recording, and Carreras and Baltsa won't burn the house down either. But as so often in French opera, EMI had a great cast, a great conductor and they recorded the opera. From the very beginning, the orchestra alerts you that this is not going to be an oratorio-like reading. Myung Whun-Chung unfolds the drama with lethal imagination, and lets you hear wonderful things in this great score. By quite a distance, this is the best conducted Samson in the catalogue. Domingo in very good voice, is a noble hero, but it is the devastatingly erotic Delila of Waltraud Meier who steals the show. What a terrific performance! Sung in perfect French and in a velvet voice, no other mezzo who has recorded the role, even comes close. EMI sound picture is admirable, the more I hear this recording, the more I like it!"
J. Luis Juarez Echenique | Mexico City | 12/24/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Excellent as Domingo's Samson is, it is Waltraud Meier and Myung Whun-Chung who steal the show. The gorgeous German mezzo sings a ravishing Delilah, as fatale as femme fatales get, besides her French is virtually perfect. Myung Whun-Chung conducts a very exciting, very theatrical Samson. No other recording even comes close."
Placido Domingo And Waltraud Meier Sizzle
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 11/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 90's EMI recording of Saint-Saens' most famous operatic work Samson et Dalila, still a popular opera in most companies, stars Placido Domingo and mezzo soprano Waltraud Meir. They are both mature, lyrically resplendent singers who not only sing beautifully and with gusto, but live their characters as well. Certainly, Domingo knew how to live each of his roles. Singing in his later years, his voice is dark, masculine, still lyrically strong and his high register is still above the staff and above the orchestra. His French diction is superb. As Samson, he seems to take on a Wagnerian hero approach. Samson, a Hebrew Old Testament version of Hercules, is a man whose heart is in the right place and attempts to save his people from the wicked pagan Phillistines. His one weakness: the beautiful and seductive Dalila. The true measure of a great Samson et Dalila lies in the vocal prowess of the lead tenor and mezzo, not to mention a good conducting of the score. While Chung may not be an especially striking conductor, this recording is blessed with the talents of Domingo and Meier. Meier is acclaimed for her Wagner (Isolde, Bragaine) and her Mozart repertoire (Despina, Elvira, Cherubino) her voice is strong in the middle register and velvety in the higher register. She is an appropriately seductive and sensual Dalilah, though I would also have enjoyed Grace Bumbry or Shirley Verrett, if both these singers could have for once been pulled out of retirement to sing opposite Placido's excellent Samson. This is a fine recording with great moments. Even the wonderful Samuel Ramey sings a particularly brilliant High Priest. I recommend you listen to the following highlights- the opening chorus, Samson's arias (all of them) and Dalilah's "Samson, Recharce Ma Presence", an unbeatable rendition on this recording."
Beautifully sung but bland in comparison to past recordings
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 02/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Samson et Dalila" was originally conceived as an oratorio but it was refashioned as an opera before its first performance. To some opera fans, that oratorio attachment is an indelible stain. Of all operas, this one is probably most criticized for its static nature. However, consider the plot. In Act I we find rebellion, murder and cries for revenge. Act II has conspiracy, seduction and betrayal. Into Act III is crammed despair, redemption, ballet, rollicking pagan religious services and, finally, triumphant annihilation. And, oh, yes, along the way is some of the most memorable music ever written for the mezzo voice. As Basil Fawlty might ask, what more do you want, herds of wildebeest racing across the plains with Krakatoa exploding in the distance?
For comparison, I spent a day listening to this and two other complete versions of the opera, a live performance from Amsterdam with Jon Vickers and Oralia Domingues and the first full-length recording with Jose Luccioni and Helene Bouvier, dating from 1946.
Luccioni combines full commitment with a strong dramatic tenor voice. Vickers gives even more intensity in a vast out-welling of his darkly shaded voice. Domingo sings with a beautiful, full sound, too, but by comparison with his two predecessors he seems dramatically uncommitted, even bland.
Oralia Dominguez, the great Verdi mezzo, easily holds her own against the blazing performance of Vickers. In addition to Bouvier and Meier, I also compared her with Dalila's arias as recorded by the contemporary star, Olga Borodina. I'd hazard that Bouvier had the smallest voice among the four, best in the middle of her range, and showing distinct differences in coloration when pushed to the very top or bottom. For all that, she found her way fully into the character of Dalila and offered dramatic precision with each note. Domingues, with a bigger, fuller voice, was as effectively in character as Bouvier. Of the four, Domingues sounds the oldest, but by no means elderly. To my mind, Dalila is not in the first blossom of youth, but rather someone entirely more sophisticated and exotic. Dominguez works for me. Meier, also larger of voice than Bouvier and in better vocal control than either of her predecessors, sounds bland by comparison. Like the otherwise admirable Domingo, she seems one step away from Dalila, commenting on her, rather than being her. On her recital disc, Borodina shows control to equal Meier's and dramatic sensibilities midway between Meier and Dominguez. (Alas, I do not have a recording of Borodina's 2001 Dalila, when she all but blew me out of my seat at the San Francisco Opera.)
As a resident of Western Canada, I am no judge of French accents, but those whose judgment I trust inform me that neither Vickers nor Dominguez are exactly Parisian, nor are Domingo, Meier or Borodina. Bouvier and Luccioni, on the other hand, are said to be dead-on perfect.
Alain Fondary plays the High Priest of Dagon on the Domingo/Meier set. He is adequate and forgettable. On the Amsterdam performance, the High Priest was that French stalwart, Ernest Blanc. He is always good in everything, but never the best. Paul Cabanel, who was nearly sixty in 1946 and would be making recordings for at least another six years, simply overwhelms his competitors.
The Amsterdam conductor, Jean Fournet, was a major figure in the French repertory in the years straddling World War II. Of the conductors of the three complete versions I compared, he was the undisputed winner when dealing with the music for Samson's scenes, especially in Act I, where he emphasized the bumptious and rhythmic qualities of the orchestration. He was the only one of the three to bring the final bars of the opera to a climactic thump commensurate with the collapse of a temple. As for the ballet music and the tauntingly jolly duet of Dalila and the High Priest in Act III, Louis Fourestier of 1946 is the one to hear. Myung-Whun Chung sounds--you guessed it--bland in comparison with either conductor.
This is an admirable recording of "Samson et Dalila," probably the best available in contemporary sound. To those for whom that is the major consideration, I recommend it wholeheartedly. On the other hand, in terms of overall performance, it pales in comparison with its older rivals. For that reason, I give it four stars.