After a daring season-opening production of Francesco Cavalli’s forgotten opera Eliogabalo—so forgotten that it was not even performed in the composer’s lifetime and only saw the light of day in 1999—Paris has settled into more familiar standard-repertoire runs. Yet even here the adventure continues, with the return of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila after a twenty-five year absence. Since its world premiere, in Weimar in 1877, the work has endured as a great operatic warhorse that combines the Biblical Orientalism that was then chic with the sumptuous femme fatale trope that had just begun to migrate from the page to the stage. Adapted from the Old Testament Book of Judges, Samson retells the downfall of the ancient Hebrew hero whose strength, which flows from his...


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