Review: Samson and Delilah

I was invited to the Windspear Opera’s season opening with cast party and intermission reception access. It was my first time at the opera and I’ve been spoiled by the experience with floor seats in the middle of the hall, orchestra seats, close enough to throw something on stage if I wanted to, free cocktails and champagne. I’m writing a thank you letter, obviously I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Being the first night of the season, the audience was treated to the star spangled banner. It was a surreal start to the night, seeing the entire audience standing, dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns. I mentioned to my host respectability politics through the lens of the opera. The story of Samson and Delilah in the old testament book of judges is heavy on the rights of man and vengeance. Disrespect is blood libel, your god gives and takes strength, the power of the word is the power of action, all cultures operate on the code of acceptance lest ye be expelled from the light. We speak of the strength of Samson, we don’t speak of the strength of Delilah, also given to her by her God and reinforced by love. Love is the weapon of the philistines, love is the power of choice, but in its fluidity, love is the destroyer of both man and empire.

Cycles repeat themselves throughout the action and songs of Samson and Delilah. The opening sequence presents the Hebrews under Samson’s care in a huddle moving in lamentation, to gyre surrounded by the oppressors, to vortex devouring those that hold them captive. The scene was enacted beautifully, and it is one that repeats itself to different ends. Again, cycles repeat themselves. Like the love affair of Samson and Delilah, the voices of Olga Borodina and Clifton Forbis swirls with the emotion of what is right for the self, the tribe, and what will placate the internal burnings that have bound them to their fates. It is crushing. Who has not been bound by regret, bound by the past? Visualizing that in production, Samson and Delilah succeeds in painting a picture of extreme bondage by the power of love. While there is no escape for the characters of the play, there is a place for us outside of the rubble with the present on the road to lives boundless.

 I think of Judith slaying Holofernes when I think of Samson and Delilah as a counter offer to the fall of the judge, Samson. I think of Judith winning the trust of the enemy and alone with her attendant cutting the head off of the enemy in one fail swoop. It is the weight of the world resting on the shoulders of one and while there is no opera chronicling Judith, art history has told the tale. For every season there is a second to recollect. These are bold times and with as much as there is to be said about what fate may ordain, the boldness of love and strength must not be forgotten. Respect and stay tuned.

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