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Samson and Delilah

by Camille Saint-Saens


[This synopsis, like my others, is very, very brief. The reason is that I find the normal programme note much too long, and needlessly detailed and complicated. What I want is more of an overview. If I’ve read an overview – a sort of synopsis of a synopsis – I find that, particularly with the help of surtitles, there is then absolutely no need for a blow-by-blow description of the plot.]


The opera is about the “honey trap” set by the Philistines and enacted by Delilah to seduce Samson, the Hebrew leader – which all ends in disaster.


In Act 1, although the Hebrews have been subdued by the Philistines, Samson manages to kill their leader, Abimelech, causing them to construct the trap in revenge.


Act 2 sees the seduction develop, ending with the famous disclosure to Delilah that the secret of his great strength is his hair. The Philistines then cut of his hair and blind him.


Act 3, in which Samson is “eyeless in Gaza” (to quote Milton), ends with him praying to God to restore his strength. He pushes down the pillars holding up the temple of the Philistine god, which crashes down killing him and his enemies.

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