Classical Music | Mezzo-Soprano

Camille Saint-Saëns

From "Samson and Delilah": Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix  Play

Maria Meneghini Callas Mezzo-soprano
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française Orchestra
Georges Prêtre Conductor

Recorded on 03/24/2012, uploaded on 03/24/2012

Musician's or Publisher's Notes


Camille Saint-Saëns only opera to gain recognition on the operatic stage, Samson and Delilah was composed over a lengthy period between 1867 and 1876. He began work on the opera just two years after his still as-of-yet unperformed first opera, Le timbre d’argent, approaching Ferdinand Lemaire, husband of one of his wife’s cousins, to craft a libretto on the Biblical story. Saint-Saëns’s original intent, spurred by a renewed interest in choral music and a personal admiration for the works of Handel and Mendelssohn, was to compose an oratorio. Lemaire, however, convinced Saint-Saëns to give the story an operatic treatment, and once the libretto was finished, Saint-Saëns set to work with great enthusiasm on Act II. Though he had yet to complete the orchestration, Saint-Saëns presented a completed second act in a private performance in 1870, just prior to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. The audience, however, reacted negatively to the composer’s efforts and was appalled by his intentional staging of a Biblical subject. With such an alarming reaction, Saint-Saëns abandoned work on the opera.

Two years later, while at Weimar attending a production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Saint-Saëns was persuaded by the former music director of the court orchestra, Franz Liszt, to complete Samson and Delilah. Liszt even offered to stage the work at the Weimar opera house. Saint-Saëns immediately picked up work again on the opera and in 1875 presented Act I in similar manner as he had done with Act II. In five years, public sentiment had not changed. Despite another discouraging performance, Saint-Saëns completed the score the following year.

With the continual support of Franz Liszt, Samson and Delilah was staged in Weimar on December 2, 1877, a decade after Saint-Saëns had begun the opera. The premiere was a great success for the composer with both critics and audience. Yet, despite the enthusiastic reception, Samson and Delilah failed to immediately secure a place in the repertoire. Two more decades would pass before it would was successfully staged at other opera houses. In 1892, its premiere at the Paris Opéra was met with praise.

Perhaps the most well-known aria from Samson and Delilah and a staple of the mezzo-soprano literature is “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens itself to your voice”). It is sung by Delilah in Act II during her attempt to seduce Samson and thus learn the secret of his strength. Delilah’s music and lyrics is coaxing, yet imbued with a convincing tenderness, as she feigns her love and desire for Samson. At the close of each of her two stanza’s Samson responds with “Dalila! Dalila! Je t’aime!” (“Delilah! Delilah! I love you!”). In recital performances of the aria, Samson’s responses are usually omitted or altered to “Samson! Samson! Je t’aime!”       Joseph DuBose

Istituto Europeo di Musica. Programmazione del Sabato e della Domenica. Nell'antica Idea della filodiffusione di musica classica

Camille Saint-Saëns, Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix From "Samson and Delilah"

(Liv Rec. Paris April 1961)