Met Opera 2018-19 Preview: A Look At ‘Samson et Dalila’s’ Historic Opening Night Performances

By David Salazar

Camile Saint-Saëns’ “Samson et Dalila” is not among the most popular operas in the standard repertoire. In fact, at the Met, it has been performed a total of 226 times since is Met premiere back on Feb. 8, 1895.

And yet the opera has garnered three opening nights to date, a number that will increase by one on Sept. 24, 2018, when a new production of the French work opens the 2018-19 season.

In honor of opening night, here is a look back at the other three times the opera opened a season at the Met.

Nov. 15, 1915

Giulio Gatti-Casazza was in the midst of his tenure as general manager and he kicked off the 1915-16 season with the French masterwork. The new production was undoubtedly going to feature a top tenor and the Italian manager contracted the best there was – Enrico Caruso. His Dalila was Margarete Matzenauer with Pasquale Amato as the high priest. Giorgio Polacco conducted the production by Jules Speck.

Nov. 11, 1918

A few seasons later Caruso would return for yet another opening night as the Hebrew hero, this time with Louise Homer as Dalila and Robert Couzinou, in his debut, as the High Priest. French maestro Pierre Monteux led the way. The tenor’s health was of great concern, but his performance received strong reviews, as did that of Homer. This performance is perhaps better known for the performance of the allied National Anthems after Act one.

Sept. 28, 1998

The opera would not get another opening night for another 70 years, though this time it would also get a major celebration. Plácido Domingo, celebrating his 30th anniversary season with the company, starred in the title role alongside Olga Borodina. The performance was broadcast and remains available on the Met’s Opera on Demand service.

Sept. 24, 2018

Remarkably, 20 seasons later, the company will also showcase the opera on opening night with Roberto Alagna and Elina Garanca headlining a new production.