Major Operas | Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns | High Romantic

Composed: 1867–68; 1873–77
Premiered: 1877, Weimar
Libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire

Act I

Outside the temple of Dagon, the Hebrews fear that God has deserted them. The Philistine satrap, Abimélech, mocks them, saying that they should worship Dagon. When Samson speaks out Abimélech attacks him and is slain. The gates of the temple open, revealing the high priest – who curses the Hebrews. The beautiful Dalila enters with a group of priestesses. She declares that Samson has conquered her heart, not for the first time, and asks him to visit her again. An old Hebrew warns Samson against her. While Dalila sings and the priestesses dance, Samson is unable to resist watching her.

Act II

Dalila revels in her power over Samson. The high priest tells her that it is even more important that she discovers the secret of Samson’s power now that the Hebrews have captured the city. Samson must die. She refuses the gold he offers, saying that revenge for Samson’s earlier treatment of her will be enough. Samson enters to say farewell, but Dalila invokes the power of love. As Samson declares his love Dalila demands total surrender, saying that he must reveal the secret. Samson eventually follows her into the house and Dalila gives a signal to the Philistine soldiers.


Blinded, and with his hair shorn, Samson turns a treadmill while the Hebrews are heard lamenting his betrayal. The Philistines are celebrating in the temple. Samson is led in and mocked by the high priest. Dalila tells how she betrayed him out of hatred. As the Philistines make offerings to Dagon, the high priest orders Samson to be brought forward. Standing between the two pillars that support the temple, he calls on God to restore his strength and brings the roof crashing down.

Sounds Familiar

‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’
In this aria from Act II of Samson et Dalila, Dalila attempts to seduce Samson, hoping to weaken his resolve not to reveal the secret of his strength. If she succeeds, she can deprive him of it and so enable the high priest of Dagon to capture him. Samson tries to refuse her but eventually succumbs.

Personalities | Camille Saint-Saëns | High Romantic | Opera


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