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Constructing the Oriental ‘Other’: Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2008


Opera is rich in works that construct visions of the non-Western world and its inhabitants: Rameau's Les Indes galantes, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles, Verdi's Aida, Strauss's Salome, Puccini's Turandot. In these operas the representation of what recent critical theory calls ‘the Other’ is most clearly announced in the basic plot, in characters' names, and in costumes, sets and props. But to what extent do the libretto and the music also participate in this project?

The question easily lends itself to a narrower formulation: to what extent do these operas signal Otherness – Turkishness, Indianness, Chineseness and so on – through musical materials that depart from Western stylistic norms or even reflect specific musical practices of the region in question? Scholars and critics have repeatedly posed the problem in these terms, only to find themselves frustrated by three limitations: general stylistic aberrations are often applied indiscriminately by composers to vastly different geographical settings; borrowed tunes and the like tend to lose distinctive features by being uprooted and transplanted; and whole stretches of these operas are written in an entirely Western idiom.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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1 More precisely, the Other (‘l'Autre’) defined by geographical and ethnic difference; Francis Affergan terms it l'altérité lointaine (‘otherness by distance’) – see his Exotisme et altérité: Essai sur les fondements d'une critique de l'anthropologie (Paris, 1987), 27–8.Google Scholar The term ‘Other’ may also refer to woman; indeed, in an epistemological sense, to any ‘not-I’ – see MacGowan, John, Postmodernism and its Critics (Ithaca, 1991), esp. 21–2Google Scholar, 89–101, 120–4, 172–5, 184–6.

2 I have attempted to demonstrate this for the largely neglected works of Félicien David, the pioneer figure in French Romantic musical exoticism: ‘Félicien David, compositeur saint-simonien et orientalisant’, in Morsy, Magali, ed., Les Saint-Simoniens et l'Orient: Vers la modernité (Aix-en-Provence, 1989), 135–54.Google Scholar Valuable recent studies of exotic ‘borrowings’ include Becker, Heinz, ed., Die ‘Couleur locale’ in der Oper des 19. Jahrhunderts, Studien zur Musikgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts, 42 (Regensburg, 1976)Google Scholar; Gradenwitz, Peter, Musik zwischen Orient und Okzident: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Wechselbeziehungen (Wilhelmshaven, 1977)Google Scholar; Pistone, Danièle, ed., L'Exotisme musical français, Revue internationale de musique française, no. 6 (11 1981), 596Google Scholar; Maehder, Jürgen, ed., Esotismo e colore locale nell'opera di Puccini (Pisa, 1985)Google Scholar; Schatt, Peter, Exotik in der Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts: Historisch-systematische Untersuchungen zur Metamorphose einer ästhetischen Fiktion (Munich, 1986)Google Scholar; and Schmitt, Anke, Der Exotismus in der deutschen Oper zwischen Mozart und Spohr (Hamburg, 1988).Google Scholar

3 The musical manifestations of this larger Orientalist attitude have been explored in recent writings on several operas. see Bauman, Thomas, W. A. Mozart: ‘Die Entführung aus dem Serail’ (Cambridge, 1987)Google Scholar; Seta, Fabrizio della, ‘“O cieli azzurri”: Exoticism and Dramatic Discourse in Aida', this journal, 3 (1991), 4962Google Scholar; Ashbrook, William and Powers, Harold, Puccini's ‘Turandot’: The End of the Great Tradition (Princeton, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and three articles by Groos, Arthur: ‘Return of the Native: Japan in Madama Butterfly/Madama Butterfly in Japan’, this journal, 1 (1989), 167–94Google Scholar; Lieutenant F. B. Pinkerton: Problems in the Genesis of an Operatic Hero’, Italica, 64 (1987), 654–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and ‘Madame Butterfly: The Story’, this journal, 3 (1991), 125–58.Google Scholar

4 The fullest discussions of Samson are Collet, Henri, ‘Samson et Dalila’ de C. Saint-Saë;ns: Étude historique et critique, analyse musicale (Paris, [1922?])Google Scholar, and the essays in Saint-Saëns. ‘Samson et Dalila’, L'Avant-scène opéra, no. 15 (0506 1978Google Scholar; henceforth Avant-scène). Collet incorporates extensive remarks from earlier writers, notably Baumann, Émile, Les Grandes Formes de la musique: L'Oeuvre de C. Saint-Saë;ns (Paris, 1905).Google Scholar Further bibliography is listed in Avant-scène, 112.Google Scholar

The question of Orientalism in this opera has been briefly examined by Quittard, Henri, ‘Saint-Saëns orientaliste’, Revue musicale, 5 (1906), 105–16Google Scholar; Dubcek, Marina, ‘L'Orientalisme dans Samson’, in Avant-scène, 86–8Google Scholar; and Collet, who confusingly subsumes under the ‘Oriental’ anything ‘hieratic’ or archaic (e.g., the ‘Hymne de joie’ and the last bars of Act I – pp. 85, 89).

5 The most detailed account of the opera's origins, by Sabina Ratner, is printed in the booklet to the recent Colin Davis recording (for Philips) and is based on her article La Genèse et la fortune de “Samson et Dalila”’, Cahiers Ivan Tourguéniev, Pauline Viardot, Maria Malibran, no. 9 (1985), 108–21Google Scholar; the Philips essay contains additional quotations from letters but omits Ratner's endnotes. See also Saint-Saëns's long letter on the subject, in Collet, , Samson, 3144Google Scholar and elsewhere; also Avant-scène, 813.Google Scholar

6 The paradigm can be expanded or altered, sometimes in ways that further heighten the essential binary principle. For example, adding a second female character – vinuous, long-suffering and ‘Western’, as in Carmen– sets the exotic central female character in sharper relief.

7 Saint-Saëns himself drafted the text; it was versified by Ferdinand Lemaire, a Creole from Martinique and a cousin-by-marriage of the composer.

8 My account of Orientalism is based primarily on Schwab, Raymond, Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, trans. Patterson-Black, Gene and Reinking, Victor (New York, 1984)Google Scholar; Behdad, Ali, ‘Orientalist Desire, Desire of the Orient’, French Forum, 15 (1990), 3751Google Scholar; Said's, Edward W. provocative study of the writings of scholars and political commentators on the Arab world, Orientalism (New York, 1978)Google Scholar; and various responses to Said: Bhabha, Homi K., ‘The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism’ (reprinted in Literature, Politics and Theory: Papers from the Essex Conference, 1976–84, ed. Barker, Francis et al. [London and New York, 1986], 148–72)Google Scholar; Said's own ‘Orientalism Reconsidered’ (ibid., 210–29); and James Clifford, ‘On Orientalism’, in his Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 255–76.Google Scholar I am also indebted to two essays by Nochlin, Linda: ‘Women, An, and Power’, in her Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York, 1988), esp. 812Google Scholar, and ‘The Imaginary Orient’, in her Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society (New York, 1989), 3359.Google Scholar

9 Orientalism, 3.Google Scholar

10 Conflated from two discussions in Said, Orientalism, 4, 119–20.Google Scholar

11 Said, Orientalism, passim. Also Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, Mass., 1991)Google Scholar, and articles in Stevens, Mary Anne, ed., The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse. The Allure of North Africa and the Near East (Washington, D.C., 1984), 2431.Google Scholar

12 The commissions included major canvases by Baron Gros and Horace Vernet depicting Napoleon in Egypt and various French battles against North African troops. See Stevens, , Orientalists, 163–5, 209–10Google Scholar; also Marrinan, Michael, Painting Politics for Louis-Philippe: Art and Ideology in Orléanist France, 1830–1848 (New Haven, 1988Google Scholar), and the exhibition catalogue The Art of the July Monarchy: France 1830 to 1848 (Columbia, Mo., and London, 1990), esp. chaps. 13.Google Scholar

13 Hugo, Victor, preface to Les Orientales – Les Feuilles d'automne, ed. Abouy, Pierre: Paris, 1964), 23.Google Scholar

16 Warner, MalcolmThe Question of Faith: Orientalism, Christianity and Islam’, in Stevens, Orientalists, 32–9Google Scholar; Jullian, , Orientalists, 108–11.Google Scholar

17 Nir, Yeshayahu, The Bible and the Image: The History of Photography in the Holy Land, 1839–1899 (Philadelphia, 1986), 30–9, 145Google Scholar; see also Perez, Nissan N., Focus East: Early Photography in the Near East (1839–1885) (New York, 1988), 98Google Scholar; and Graham-Brown, Sarah, Images of Women: The Portrayal of Women in Photography in the Middle East, 1860–1950 (London, 1988), 46–8.Google Scholar

18 See also, for example, Théophile Gautier's poems ‘Tristesse de L'odalisque’ and ‘Sultan Mahmoud’, both of which were set to music by Félicien David. see Gann, Andrew, ‘Les Orients musicaux de Théophile Gautier’, Bulletin de la Société Théophile Gautier, no. 12. 1 (1990), 135–49.Google Scholar

19 ‘Félicien David’, printed in Harmonie et mélodie (Paris, 1885), 127–32Google Scholar, but written in response to David's death (1876).

20 Hervey, Arthur, Saint-Saëns (London, 1922Google Scholar; rpt. Freeport, N.Y., 1969), 58. Indeed, the priestesses' lack of oven seductiveness nicely illustrates the psychocultural function of exotic eroticism for the Westerner; the exotic offers, according to Martin, Andrew (see n. 14), ‘a prolonged postponement … perpetually unconsummated (and therefore undiminished) desire’ (p. 66).Google Scholar The somewhat more excited middle section of the dance might be a convincing moment for Delilah to step forward and begin appropriating this otherwise innocent number for her own unsavoury purposes. see Conrad, Peter, A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera (New York, 1987), 70.Google Scholar

21 Ex. 2b is taken from Rouanet, Joseph, ‘La Musique arabe dans le Maghreb’, in Lavignac, Albert and Laurencie, Lionel de La, eds., Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire (Paris, 19201931), pt. 1, vol. V (1922), 2818–19.Google Scholar

22 See examples in Oxford University Press's History of Music in Sound, I (American RCA Victor) and Islamic Liturgy: Song and Dance at a Meeting of Dervishes (Folkways Records FR 8943); also Rouanet, , ‘Musique arabe’, 2820.Google Scholar

23 Compare an adhān (muezzin call) that uses Hijâz only for the upper tetrachord: Musical Atlas: Syria, Sunnite Islam, Unesco Collection 7, EMI Italiana Odeon 3C064–17885. On the modes (magāmāt), see Wright, Owen, ‘Arab music’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sadie, Stanley (London and New York, 1980), I, 519, 522–3Google Scholar, and Mahdi, Salah el, La Musique arabe (Paris, 1972), 3443.Google Scholar

24 Affergan, (see n. 1), 103–4.Google Scholar The particular features of the Bacchanale may also be related to its origin, separate from the opera, as an uncompleted Marche turque ( Ratner, , ‘Genèse’ [ see n. 5], 111Google Scholar).

25 Affergan, , 27–8.Google Scholar On the Bacchanale, see Collet, , Samson (n. 4), 105–9.Google Scholar

26 For example, Delacroix, (diary, 11 03 1850Google Scholar), cited in Rosenthal, , Orientalism (see n. 15), 33.Google Scholar

27 Grosrichard, Alain, Structure du sérail: La Fiction du despotisme asiatique dans L'Occident classique (Paris, 1979), 155.Google Scholar

28 The multi-talented Regnault, who died aged twenty-seven in the Franco-Prussian War, sang Samson in an early ‘try-out’ performance of Act II. Saint-Saëns described Regnault as ‘irresistibly seductive’ in voice, glance and personality, and stated that ‘we loved and admired the same things’. See ‘Les Peintres musiciens’, École buissonniere: Notes et souvenirs (Paris, 1913), 354–5.Google Scholar

29 Cazalis, Henri, Henri Regnault: Sa Vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1872), 74Google Scholar; Duparc, Arthur, ed., Correspondance de Henri Regnault, 2nd edn (Paris, 1873), 361–2.Google Scholar Regnault's Salome was originally a study of a young Italian peasant, and early critics noted that she resembled a ‘gypsy’. Painters did not always differentiate between the various dark-haired, dark-eyed peoples of the Mediterranean (Regnault regularly equated Spain with Africa in his letters); furthermore, and confusingly today, their harem pictures often featured conspicuously fair-complexioned odalisques, reflecting the fact that Middle Eastern harems included captive Circassian women.

30 See Ortner, Sherry and Whitehead, Harriet, eds., Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality (Cambridge, 1981)Google Scholar; Suleiman, Susan Rubin, ed., The Female Body in Western Culture: Contemporary Perspectives (Cambridge, Mass., 1986)Google Scholar; Nead, Lynda, Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain (Oxford, 1988)Google Scholar; Pointon, Marcia, Naked Authority: The Body in Western Painting, 1830–1908 (Cambridge, 1990), 1820Google Scholar; Hunt, Lynn, ed., Eroticism and the Body Politic (Baltimore and London, 1991)Google Scholar; and further bibliography in Tickner, Lisa, ‘Feminism, An History, and Sexual DifferenceGenders, 3 (Fall 1988), 92128.Google Scholar

31 Heine, Heinrich, ‘Industrie und Kunst’ (5 May 1843), Zeitungsberichte über Musik und Malerei, ed. Mann, Michael (Frankfurt am Main, 1964), 156–7, cf. 32–3.Google Scholar

32 Nochlin, , ‘Imaginary Orient’ (see n. 8), 45.Google Scholar

33 see Behdad, Ali, ‘The Eroticized Orient: Images of the Harem in Montesquieu and his Precursors’, Stanford French Review, 13 (1989), 109–26.Google Scholar The paintings are copiously illustrated in Thornton, vol. 3: La Femme dans la peinture orientaliste (see n. 15); analogous photos are in Alloula, Malek, The Colonial Harem, trans. Godzich, Myra and Godzich, Wlad (Minneapolis, 1987)Google Scholar, and , Graham-Brown (see n. 17).Google Scholar

34 See, for example, the entry on Samson in Hall, James, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, rev. edn (New York, 1979), 271–2Google Scholar, and Thomas Hayne's chart (1640) of parallels between Samson and Christ, reprinted in Krouse, F. Michael, Milton's Samson and the Christian Tradition (Princeton, 1949), between pp. 68 and 69.Google Scholar Readings of the biblical Samson and Delilah are gathered and examined in Preminger, Alex and Greenstein, Edward L., eds., The Hebrew Bible in Literary Criticism (New York, 1986), 549–56Google Scholar, and Bal, Mieke, Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories (Bloomington, Ind., 1987), 3767Google Scholar, and Death and Dissymmetry: The Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges (Chicago and London, 1988), esp. 11Google Scholar, 27, 113–18, 135–42, 224–7.

35 Poliakov, Léon, The History ofAnti-Semitism, trans. Howard, Richard et al. , 4 vols. (New York, 1965–85), esp. vols. III–IVGoogle Scholar; Zeldin, Theodore, France, 1848–1945, 2 vols. (Oxford, 19731977), II, 1036–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Sternhell, Zeev, Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, trans. Maisel, David (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986), 3265.Google Scholar

36 The opening chorus is dated 1859 in the manuscript, several years before Saint-Saëns hatched the plan of a Samson work ( Ratner, , ‘Genèse’ [see n. 5], 111).Google Scholar

37 Arthur Pougin noted this in his review of the first Paris performance: ‘dans une tonalité de plain-chant, sans note sensible [leading tone]’ – Le Ménestrel, 56, no. 45 (9 09 1890), 355.Google Scholar Collet, as noted earlier, does hear this chant as ‘frais et oriental … aux sobres et hiératiques harmonies’ ( Samson [see n. 4], 83Google Scholar). A New York reviewer felt that ‘it is plainly intended to be a reproduction of the music of the synagogue, but is by no means successful’ ( New York Times, 27 03 1892, p. 4Google Scholar). The Hebrews' lament in Act III is even more archaic: a psalmody on one tone or, later, an open fifth ( see Avant-scène, 80Google Scholar).

38 Conrad, Peter (see n. 20), 70Google Scholar, speaks of ‘the seditious entreaties of the Philistine women’ and claims that their music is ‘suggestively whispered’. There is, though, no indication in the stage directions or the sung text that they are directing their words to the Hebrew warriors. Arthur Pougin more accurately captured this number's innocent sweetness: plein de fraîcheur et de grâce’ (Ménestrel [1890], 355).Google Scholar

39 This interest in identifying ‘our’ (or ‘one's’) response to the Philistine women is not artificially imposed by a present-day reader but has its roots in the opera's reception history. Hervey, for example, frankly admitted (in 1922) that after the older Hebrews' ‘rather monotonous psalm … one is not sorry to see them go and to welcome the appearance of Delilah … [and of the priestesses, the latter singing] strains of the most irresistible charm’; by the end of the act, he adds, Delilah has ‘complete[d] her victory over Samson and, incidentally, of her audience’ ( Saint-Saëns [see n. 20], 52–3Google Scholar). Roger Delage, more recently, wrote of Act II that ‘we, too’, nearly ‘succumb’ to Delilah's ruse ( Avant-scène, 90Google Scholar).

40 Samson's yielding here is noted by Baumann, quoted in Collet, , Samson (see n. 4), 87.Google Scholar

41 Continuity between the two phrases is created by melodic sequence, the near-vocalise on ‘flamme’ being answered a third lower by an almost identical setting of ‘Vient’.

42 I am referring here to Catherine Clément's controversial Opera, or the Undoing of Women, trans. Wing, Betsy (Minneapolis, 1988).Google Scholar

43 On despots in art, see Jullian, (n. 15), 8691.Google Scholar On the transformation of the ‘Grand Turk’ from magnificent monarch to monstrous tyrant, see Valensi, Lucette, Venise et la Sublime Porte: La Naissance du despote (Paris, 1987).Google Scholar

44 Quoted in Duparc, (see n. 29), 387–8.Google Scholar

45 The Hebrew men and women stand on the stage with mouths shut from the Philistines' entrance to the end of the act.

46 See, in Act II, the High Priest's duet with Delilah (several transformations) and the passage where the Philistine soldiers creep in to seize the sleeping Samson. The orchestra echoes the High Priest's cadences in Ex. 9, as if endorsing his rhetoric.

47 Essay in the booklet to the Covent Garden videotape (see n. 52). Saint-Saëns's implied critique here contrasts with d'Indy's passionate endorsements of anti-Semitism: see Fulcher, Jane, ‘Vincent d'Indy's “Drame Anti-Juif” and its Meaning in Paris, 1920’, this journal, 2 (1990), 295319.Google Scholar

48 Samson (see n. 4), 83–4.Google Scholar Saint-Saëns, while composing this scene, admitted to friends that he was having some difficulty finding a way to ‘entrer dans la peau d'Abimélech’.

49 Review of 4 October 1893 (the inadequate British first performance), reprinted in Crompton's, Lewis Shaw anthology, The Great Composers: Reviews and Bombardments (Berkeley, 1978), 291.Google Scholar Hervey likewise speaks of Abimelech's ‘quaint solo’ ( Saint-Saëns [see n. 20], 52Google Scholar). The archaic awkwardness of phrase structure was thus clearly vivid to listeners at the turn of the century, if not today (see Avant-scène, 81, 84Google Scholar).

50 The dance-like replies to these two characters represent offstage or invisible spirits that assist in the devilish work. Saint-Saëns possibly had something similar in mind, the orchestra serving as a supportive ‘chorus’ to Abimelech, a function it more clearly fulfils in the High Priest's solo.

51 See Behdad, , ‘The Eroticized Orient’ (n. 33), 114Google Scholar; and Pucci, Suzanne Rodin, ‘The Discrete Charms of the Exotic: Fictions of the Harem in Eighteenth-Century France’, in Rousseau, G. S. and Porter, Roy, eds., Exoticism in the Enlightenment (Manchester, 1990), 117–44.Google Scholar

52 The stage directions mention a statue of Dagon and a sacrificial table, but do not call for these to be used in a ritual manner until the hymn at the end of the act. The Bacchanale thus should not be turned into a mini-Sacre du printemps (as in the Covent Garden videotape: Thorn EMI/HBO video), but should display, as the word ‘bacchanale’ suggests, the ‘excess of sexual expenditure’ typical of the Orientalist fantasy ( Behdad, , ‘The Eroticized Orient’, [see n. 33], 109Google Scholar). Pougin described the dancing as ‘charmante’ and ‘gracieuse’ ( Le Ménestrel 58, no. 48 [27 11 1892], 279–80Google Scholar). Admittedly, that production may have ignored the brutal elements in Saint-Saëns's ballet music; but some productions today go to the other extreme.

53 See Baumann, , Grandes formes, 418Google Scholar, cited in Collet, , Samson (see n. 4), 110Google Scholar: ‘the scholastic form, the quick decorations, the perpetual back-and-forth of the two voices in imitation portray marvelously an oriental rite, delirious and rigid’.

54 Baumann and Collet consider it a manifestation of the Philistine people's growing ‘dementia’ (Samson, 110, 117).Google Scholar

55 Collet, , Samson, 117Google Scholar; Conrad (see n. 20); Pougin, (see n. 37), 356.Google Scholar Delilah's only other instances of coloratura are in two vengeful moments, alone and with the High Priest (Act II). Florid singing thus seems to be an expression of her pagan fervour, her hatred and revenge, roughly the same function it performs for the Queen of the Night (in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte) and some of Verdi's strong heroines (Abigaille in Nabucco and Violetta in her cabaletta of excess, ‘Sempre libera’, La traviata, Act I).

56 Conrad, (see n. 20), 70.Google Scholar

57 Hervey, , Saint-Saëns (see n. 20), 54Google Scholar; Pougin (see n. 52).

58 [Joseph Bennett?], [London] Times, 27 09 1893, p. 9.Google Scholar Pierre Lalo did note a lack of dignity in the chorus's polka tune: ‘un thème de danse dont l'allégresse indifférente ne laisse pas de surprendre un peu’ ( La Musique 1898–1899 [Paris, ca. 1900]), 112.Google Scholar

59 From a letter to Cazalis, Henri (22 05 1870)Google Scholar, discussing an early version of this (or a very similar, never completed) project, in Duparc, (see n. 29), 368–72.Google Scholar

60 Clifford, , ‘On Orientalism’ (see n. 8), 258.Google Scholar

61 Roberts, , illustrator, The Holy Lancl, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, with texts by the Rev. George Croly, L.L.D. [and others], 3 vols. ([London?], 18421849), vol. 2, Plates 33–9Google Scholar, cited in Stevens, (see n. 11), 202.Google Scholar

62 Baumann, , Grandes Formes, 419Google Scholar, cited in Collet, , Samson (see n. 4), 110–11.Google Scholar

63 Tiersot, Julien, Un Demi-siècle de musique française (1870–1919), 2nd edn (Paris, 1924), 96.Google Scholar 64 Saint-Saëns's painful relationships with women (and, more generally, his conflicted sexual identity) are discussed, though not sensitively, in Harding, James, Saint-Saëns and his Circle (London, 1965), 57–8Google Scholar, 124, 129, 133–4, 154–6, 177, 198–202, and Faure, Michel, Musique et société, du second empire aux années vingt: Autour de Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy et Ravel ([Paris], 1985), 4552.Google Scholar

65 Bal, , Lethal Love (see n. 34), 50.Google Scholar

66 See Laffey, Alice L., An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective (Philadelphia, 1988), 102–5.Google Scholar

67 She is thus a kind of Philistine Judith’, [London] Times (see n. 58), 9.Google Scholar On Delilah, Judith and Salome, see Dijkstra, Bram, Idols of Perversity.: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-siècle Culture (New York, 1986), 374401.Google Scholar

68 And even there, one does not have to agree with Samson; as Empson, William argues, Milton took care ‘to work up an interesting case for Delilah … the temptations are meant to be pitched staggeringly high’ – Milton's God, rev. edn (Cambridge, 1965), 228.Google Scholar Anthony Low agrees that Samson may do her some ‘injustice’ in refusing to recognise ‘how much she has become the prisoner of her own love and lust’ and notes that she grows out of a long tradition of selfish, possessive, imprisoning lovers, including (of interest to opera) Dido, , Alcina, and Armida, (The Blaze of Noon: A Reading of ‘Samson Agonistes’ [New York and London, 1974], 144–58).Google Scholar

69 The relationship between the two librettos can be seen in certain key phrases, in a dramatic structure that is largely identical (and totally unlike Milton's and Handel's), and in analogous invented (non-biblical) characters and dramatic confrontations. Some examples: Samson exhorts the Israelites to awake and break their chains after a Philistine leader ridicules the impotence of the Hebrews' God; the chorus of priestesses bedecks the Hebrew warrior with flowers; a Philistine priestess sings of chirping birds, flowers and love; Delilah sings an aria invoking (and beginning with the word) ‘Amour’; Delilah regrets her ‘faiblesse’; Samson repeatedly declares his allegiance to the ‘Dieu des combats’; several scenes chart Samson's growing passion for Delilah, ending with his revealing the secret to her, and his arrest; and the last act begins with Samson lamenting his own weakness and his blinded state.

70 Ouvres complètes de Voltaire, 2nd edn, Théâtre, II (Paris, 1828), 140Google Scholar (Act III scenes 1, 3, 5), 149–50 (Act IV scene 6).

71 Praz, Mario, The Romantic Agony, trans. Davidson, Angus, 2nd edn (New York, 1956), 187306, 453–62Google Scholar; Dijkstra, Bram (see n. 67), 374–7Google Scholar; Kramer, Lawrence, ‘Cultural and Musical Hermeneutics: The Salome Complex’, this journal, 2 (1990), 269–94.Google Scholar

72 On Deutsche Grammophon (see n. 47). see Blyth, Alan, ed., Opera on Record, II (London, 1986), 208–18Google Scholar; Conrad, (see n. 20), 70, 257, 258, 343, 349Google Scholar; and the many performance photos in Avant-scène.

73 Covent Garden: video (see n. 52). Obraztsova: photo on the cover of the Deutsche Grammophon recording. Verrett strikes a similar pose in the San Francisco Opera production (available on videotape).

74 As also in Milton – see Low, (n. 68), 157.Google Scholar

75 Philippe-Joseph Salazar misses this point when he flatly states that ‘Delilah is the man of this opera’ (Avant-scène, 74).

76 On the association of woman's power and night, see Clément, (n. 42), e.g., 37–8, 88–92, 96–117Google Scholar; on the Orient as night, see Martin (n. 14).

77 For example, certain party scenes in Rigoletto, La traviata and Un ballo in maschera, and the first encounter between Posa and Elisabeth in Don Carlos (Act II). In the present case the six-bar melody is rounded off by the orchestra, a single long phrase of eight asymmetrical bars (3 + 3 + 2).

78 This seems an interesting counter-example to the association between chromaticism and dangerous, slippery femininity asserted by Catherine Clément (see n. 42) and McClary, Susan, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (Minneapolis, 1991), 5667.Google Scholar Of course, one might argue that the structural chromaticism in Samson's part shows the disturbing effect of Delilah's feminine subversion. But chromatic progression as a signal of distress and anxiety is too widespread in Western music to permit an easy semiotic equivalence between chromaticism and woman (see Ellen Rosand's review of Clément: Criticism and the Undoing of Opera’, 19th-Century Music, 14 [19901991], 80–1Google Scholar).

79 Few tenors sing it softly, which is difficult when the tempo is taken too slow; but Jon Vickers achieves something of the intended sense of distress on the recording for EMI/Angel.

80 This expansion from sixth to seventh – to upper (as in Ex. 7a), then to upper (Ex. 14)–was already enacted by Delilah in successive phrases of Ex. 13a, bb. 2 and 4. Saint-Saëns had reminded us of this same sixth leap to in the opening notes of Delilah's Act II soliloquy (‘Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse’).

81 Liszt to Tardieu, Malwine, 20 01 1882Google Scholar; cited in Avant-scène, 47.Google Scholar

82 ‘Her feigned passion is expressed in strains of the most ardent nature’ ( Hervey, , Saint-Saëns [see n. 20], 53Google Scholar); ‘a calculated show’ ( Conrad, , [see n. 20], 70Google Scholar).

83 Jean de Solliers, echoed by Salazar, Philippe-Joseph and Delage, Roger (in Avant-scène, respectively: 47–9, 72–5, 90).Google Scholar

84 Delage calls it, tendentiously, a ‘serpent’-like chromatic theme, ‘crawling and hissing’ (Avant-scène, 90); de Solliers (ibid., 49) misleadingly labels the breeze theme ‘Storm’; it does not become transformed into storm music until after ‘Mon coeur’ ends.

85 Michael Stegemann goes to the other extreme, arguing that the ‘sensuality’ of Delilah's musical lines ‘is too convincing in effect to be hypocriticaL' and suggesting that the love duet could ‘almost [cause the listener] to anticipate a sort of tragic dénouement: a joint love-death à la Tristan’ (‘Camille Saint-Saëns und die Krise der französischen Oper’, essay in the booklet to the Barenboim recording; see n. 47). The structural passivity and dependency of Samson in this duet resist any such sentimental reading.

86 Voltaire (see nn. 69–70) avoids the problem by having her die – or commit suicide – in the interval between the last two acts.

87 Hervey, , Saint-Saëns, 54Google Scholar; Shaw, (see n. 49), 291Google Scholar: ‘already hackneyed by concert use’ (1893). By 1983 more than a hundred mezzos (or sopranos, such as Maria Callas) had recorded one or more of Delilah's three great solos.

88 This is stated plainly in the Times review (4 12 1896, p. 10Google Scholar; presumably by Joseph Bennett) of the first adequate London (concert) performance.

89 Spike Jones and his City Slickers (ca. 1950; now on RCA CD3235). Chabrol film: a charming opera buff, during World War I, lures women to his country house and kills them – see Blanchet, Christian, Claude Chabrol (Paris, 1989), 34–6, 149–51.Google Scholar

90 Doctor Faustus, trans. Lowe-Porter, H. T. (New York, 1948), chap. 38, pp. 409–16.Google Scholar

91 ‘The smell of the rose draws one’, Sophie says in the preceding bars, ‘as if there were cords around one's heap’. The striking resemblance of this image to the biblical Delilah's attempts to bind Samson may conceivably have guided Strauss's associations toward Saint-Saëns's ‘Mon cur’.

92 Brodszky turns the tonality-blurring sequence-down-a-third into something platitudinous through more explicit harmonic action. The song, which was an international hit (recordings by Fritz Wunderlich and others), is the title cut on a recent compact disc by Placido Domingo; Lanza's recording has been rereleased on CD, and the music is still widely available in sheet music form and in several song anthologies.

93 see Stempel, Larry, ‘Broadway's Mozanean Moment, or An Amadeus in Amber’, in Ledbetter, Steven, ed., Sennets and Tuckets: A Bernstein Celebration (Boston, 1988), 4950.Google Scholar By hovering back and forth between the tonic and submediant, Bernstein emphasises tonal ambiguity in somewhat pandiatonic fashion, the opposite of Brodszky's over-explicit tonal clarity.

94 For a fuller discussion, see my ‘West Side Story and Tales of the Orient’, in progress.

95 Saint-Saëns liked to express his admiration for various aspects of North African and Asian civilisation (including its food, its architecture and its cultural ‘immobility’, i.e., cultivation of rich traditions) as a way of twitting the West, its claims to superiority and ‘its mania for seeking novelty at all cost’. See Portraits et souvenirs, cited in Collet, , Samson (see n. 4), 74Google Scholar; also Saint-Saëns, , Au courant de la vie (Paris, [1914]), 73–4Google Scholar, 81–2, 110–11, and Faure, , Musique (see n. 64), 63.Google Scholar

96 Besides his wide-ranging musical tastes, we may refer to his political views, including his refusal to indulge in chauvinist rhetoric in regard to World War I – for him, a pointless instance of imperial nations ‘exterminating’ each other (see Faure, , Musique [n. 64], 64–5).Google Scholar

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