Saturday, February 18, 2012

Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra: Saint-Saëns—Bacchanale

The Teresa Carreño Youth Symphony Orchestra, under the exciting baton of Gustavo Dudamel, perform the "Bacchanale" from Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, a grand opera in three acts, opus 47, at an outdoor concert at the Concha Acustica de el Parque los Caobos ("The Caobos Park Bandshell"). The concert was part of the celebrations surrounding the 442nd anniversary of Caracas, Venezuela, on July 26, 2009.


The opera is based on the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, which is found in the Book of Judges in the Christian Old Testament (chapter 16); and in the Jewish Torah forms part of the Deuteronomic canon, the second book in Nevi'im (Prophets), called  Sefer Shoftim (ספר שופטים).

Camille Saint-Saëns composed the score, and Ferdinand Lemaire wrote the French libretto. It was first performed in Weimar at the Grossherzogliches (Grand Ducal) Theater (now the Staatskapelle Weimar) on December 2, 1877, in a German performance. The Bacchanale takes place in the Temple of Dagon (Act III, scene 2), considered a pagan place of worship for the Israelites.  You can view an operatic performance here to get a sense of it. Saint-Saëns created a wonderful musical drama.

Samson was an Israelite leader and a nazirite, dedicated at birth to serve God; one of the outward signs was that his hair could not be cut. He is shown as a inspiring yet vulnerable leader and judge, open to the declarations of love that a seductress, Delilah, a Philistine, offers. She is not true to such declarations and by deception learns the secret of his strength lay in his hair. So, Delilah arranged to lay a razor to "the seven braids of his hair." Samson, in his weakened state is captured, and his eyes gouged out.

He is mocked and ridiculed. In the end, Samson's faith prevails, leading to the downfall  of his enemies when, after Samson calls out to God, he regains his strength and pulls the pillars of the Temple of Dagon crashing down. All is destroyed: Samson, his enemies and the temple. It's an old-fashioned morality tale, with all its implicit warnings.


  1. Totalitarian rulers are united by two things: censoring music (Mao and Khomeini were the worst) and hating Jews and/or Israel. Chavez is an exception. Despite his overwhelming hostility to Israel, he is pro-music.

  2. Hugo Chávez is certainly no friend of democracy or of Israel. But Latin and South Americans love music and musical performance, as this video shows. It might have to do with the Catholic roots of such nations, which have influenced the cultural tastes and mores.


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