Mezzo finds a softer side to Dalila in new Met Opera production

NEW YORK — For Elina Garanca, there's a clue nestled in the score of Camille Saint-Saens' opera "Samson et Dalila" that suggests the pagan beauty has genuine feelings for the hero she has vowed to destroy.

"It's just two pages, the passage right before her big aria, 'Mon coeur,' when she asks him to remember those old days when they were just two lovers sitting in front of each other," said Garanca, who is starring in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera.

"The music becomes so innocent and pure and transparently light," the Latvian mezzo-soprano said in an interview. "She really expresses how wonderful it would be if there were no religion, no power, no struggles, so they could just be two people who connect together."

But Dalila is also furious at Samson, the leader of the Israelites, for rejecting her in favor of his god, and she carries through on her seduction so she can deliver him to his Philistine enemies.

The production, also starring tenor Roberto Alagna as Samson and directed by Tony winner Darko Tresnjak, will be broadcast live in HD to movie theaters worldwide on Saturday. [Showings in the Berkshires are 1 p.m. at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington; 12:55 p.m. at Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield and Clark Art Institute in Williamstown]

Once Samson has been shorn of his long hair and blinded, the Philistines celebrate by mocking him. Dalila joins the public ridicule, but in Garanca's performance when the others aren't watching, her expression seems clouded by remorse, or at least doubt.

"From my experience I do not know one person who has condemned somebody and who has not thought, 'Oh, was it actually right what I did?'" she said. "It's open to interpretation and I don't want to leave people with a clear picture. I want them to go home and wonder about it."

Garanca said that at age 42 her voice has become "more feminine and voluptuous" and she has been moving into weightier parts.

"I don't expect to be singing until age 70, so for the next 10 years I want to explore the repertory that fits my personality," she said. "I've reached the age where I think there's very little I can lose."


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