[Me, I blame the choreographer for insufficient piety in the Bacchanalia...
or Borodina's Philistine attitude...]
Steven Winn/The Culture: 'Samson and Delilah' and religion
SF Chronicle, Sept. 12
When the third-act curtain went up on "Samson and Delilah" on
opening night, someone in the row behind me at the War Memorial
Opera House giggled. It was hard to blame her; I was smiling a
little myself. The image onstage at that moment, of the bedraggled
hero (Clifton Forbis as Samson) pushing a fantastically huge
millstone around in a circle, teetered on the edge of a ludicrous
sight gag. Even a slightly bigger stone might have tipped the
moment into full, unintended parody.
Regardless of the arguable merits of Saint-Saens' biblical epic,
the audience, it seemed, couldn't have cared less. The applause
ran the gamut from tepid to perfunctory, with a light sprinkling
of "Bravos" tossed in, and nearly died out entirely during the
curtain calls. The principals wound up shuffling off the stage
in silence as the opening-night attendees turned their backs and
headed for the exits.
There are any number of perfectly plausible reasons why "Samson"
might not have registered as a palpable hit on the gala first
night of the company's 85th season, but I couldn't help wondering
if religion might have had just a little something to do with
it. At a time when religion is an especially contentious issue
in the culture, an Old Testament story about rival sects that
persecute, kill and imprison each other, with the destruction
of an enormous temple at the climax, might not be an obvious
crowd-pleaser. Even before the first downbeat, "Samson and
Delilah" faced an uphill battle. Set in 1150 B.C., the opera may
seem disagreeably current to many operagoers. ...
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