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Review Roundup: Darko Tresnjak's SAMSON ET DALILA at The Met

Review Roundup: Darko Tresnjak's SAMSON ET DALILA at The MetWhat did the critics think of SAMON ET DALILA at The Met Opera? Check out all the reviews of the Darko Tresnjak directed production below!

When mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca and tenor Roberto Alagna joined forces for a new production of Carmen at the Met, the results were electrifying. Now this star duo reunites for another sensual French opera when they open the season in the title roles of Saint-Saëns's biblical epic Samson et Dalila. Darko Tresnjak, who won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical in 2014 for A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, makes his Met debut directing a vivid, seductive staging, featuring a monumental setting for the last-act Temple of Dagon, where the hero crushes his Philistine enemies. Sir Mark Elder conducts the first new Met production of the work in 20 years.

The opera had its first performance at the Met in 1895, with the title roles taken
by Francesco Tamagno (Verdi's first Otello) and Eugenia Mantelli. Many mezzosopranos
have made memorable impressions as Dalila at the Met, including
Risë Stevens (32 performances between 1940 and 1958), Grace Bumbry (1971-
72), Shirley Verrett (1981-90), Olga Borodina (1998-2006), and Denyce Graves
(1998-2005). Among the great tenors who have appeared as Samson include
Enrico Caruso (33 performances from 1915 to 1920), Giovanni Martinelli (1922-
37), Ramón Vinay (1949-56), Mario Del Monaco (1958), Jon Vickers (1965-87),
and Plácido Domingo (33 performances from 1990 to 2001). Darko Tresnjak's
new production, which marks the fourth time that the opera has opened the
Met season, stars Roberto Alagna and El¯?na Garan ?ca in the lead roles, with Sir
Mark Elder conducting.

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David Salazar, Opera Wire: Tresnjak's most bewildering achievement with this production is that he makes two incredible actors like El?na Garan?a and Roberto Alagna look lost on stage and lacking in utter chemistry. Their first confrontation in Act one is all about flirtation and Dalila's progressive control over him. But it is all static and weightless. They glance at each other a few times, she takes his hand at another. She ignores him a bunch. He looks over at her confused. But their interactions don't really express or suggest much in the way of interest; it doesn't build to anything. The stock gestures and robotic nature of the staging took me out of the moment and at one point it felt like the Serbian director had popped in the DVD of these two great artists in "Carmen" and asked them to replicate their performance from the first Act where the titular heroine starts insinuating herself to Don José in front of the other women and soldiers before his duet with Micaëla.

Eric C. Simpson, NY Classical Review: Much of the credit for Monday's success is owed to the work of Mark Elder in the pit. He has a natural feel for the color of Saint-Saëns's music, color, even if his tempi tended toward the slower side. Under his direction, the Met orchestra brought richness and volume where required, but were content to get out of the way of the singers to let intimate moments breathe. The Met Chorus, called on so often in this opera, were brilliant, showing fullness of sound whether whispering or blaring.

Justin Davidson, Vulture: Garan?a tries harder to be a tough Dalila, the Philistine Mata Hari who beds, shears, and lords it over her musclebound dupe of a lover. But she puts her pagan scheming aside long enough to caress the central love scene with her seamless, high-gloss mezzo-soprano. Spectacle drops away, and the stage is cleared of extras, dancers, priests, and guards, leaving just a tenor and a mezzo who, for reasons unknown, feel that neither can live without the other. And for those ten minutes of vocal beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Anthony Tommasini, NY Times: The temple set in this act is dominated by an enormous statue of the god Dagon, divided in half. Austin McCormick's choreography for the showpiece Bacchanale looked cheesy, with scantily clad, tattooed men (and, eventually, some women) gyrating before throngs of Philistines sipping wine in garish red clothes. Dagon would appear to condone same-sex couplings.

Anne Midgette, Washington Post: Garanca is a magnificent singing actress. Oddly, though, she seemed a little challenged by the role of the consummate seductress, all sultry low notes and starlet-like moues. There's not a lot of character development in this opera, and she did what she could with what there was - such as the moment when Samson finally yields and chokes out an "I love you," when she looked up with a Liz Taylor-worthy "aha" expression. But even the singing seemed a little distanced, in a role with three of the most achingly sensual arias in the repertory. "Printemps qui commence," the first of these, was downright ponderous in its delivery, as if bogging down in all that rich chest voice. She hit her stride more with the third aria, "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix," and really caught fire in the final scene, when the character lets down her mask and reveals that she hates Samson and that all of her seduction has been a lie.

Richard Sasanow, BroadwayWorld: Trasnjak's choices for the finale, where Samson regains his strength and demolishes Dagon's temple, however, were a real disappointment. Frequently, Samson is shown standing between the temple's central pillars and uses his brute strength to separate and demolish them. Instead, the destruction of the temple was left to the imagination in a kind of "Don Giovanni goes to hell," walk-into-the-light sort of way. It didn't seem a particularly exciting solution.

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