The affectionate jokes of that orchestral work are a long way from the driving passions of the composer's most famous opera, Samson et Dalila. And there is a chance to hear it at the Royal Opera House for the first time in nearly 20 years when a new production is staged in May and June.
Samson et Dalila was first performed at Weimar in 1877, much encouraged by the influential composer, conductor and pianist Franz Liszt, who was also a champion of the earlier Wagner opera Lohengrin, in the same opera house. Covent Garden is staging both pieces in repertory, throwing up some interesting comparisons and contrasts.
The opera's story is draw from the Bible, and records the downfall of strongman Samson, who is defending the Hebrews. When attractive Dalila is sent by enemy tribes to seduce him, he confides in her the secret of his superhuman strength – his uncut hair. In his sleep, Dalila cuts away the all-important locks, and he wakes to find his powers gone.
Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča sings the scheming Dalila
Dalila in this new production by Richard Jones is sung by the Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, who has previously appeared at the Royal Opera House in the title role of Bizet's Carmen and as the heroine Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Her Carmen at the Met in New York
Samson was to have been sung by the very popular Scottish-born tenor Nicky Spence, who was most recently seen on the London stage in English National Opera's The Valkyrie, but he has had to withdraw from the production after a fall, and the role will be sung by SeokJong Baek. The High Priest is sung by Polish baritone Lukasz Golinski, who made his debut at Covent Garden as Marcello in Puccini's La Boheme.
Sir Antonio Pappano conducts the orchestra and chorus of the Royal Opera.
Don't wait another 18 years to catch this opera, not least because it is considered one of the best roles in the repertoire for the mezzo-soprano voice. No pressure, Elīna Garanča!
Samson et Dalila is sung in French with English surtitles. Performances are on 26, 29 May; 3, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19 June. Public booking opens 10AM, Tues 22 Feb. Click here for more details and booking
|Samson et Dalila, Royal Opera House
|Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
26 May 22 – 19 Jun 22, Eight performances, start times vary. Running time c2hr 40min including one interval
|Click here for more information and booking