Saint-Saëns’ Most Seductive Aria: An Excerpt from “Samson and Delilah”

My heart opens to your voice like the flowers open to the kisses of the dawn.

With these alluring lines, Delilah attempts to seduce Samson with the goal of tricking him into revealing the secret of his strength. Danger and betrayal mix with sensuality in this famous mezzo-soprano aria, Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix, from the second act of Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1877 opera, Samson and Delilah. Delilah’s trap is a deceitful attempt to lure Samson away from leading a revolution against the Philistines, yet also she is not without feelings for him. All of this drama and contradiction results in one of the most memorable arias in the opera repertoire.

The delicate, rising and falling string lines in the opening bars are reminiscent of the hushed, nocturnal soundscape of Berlioz’ Les nuits d’été, as well as the opening of the third act of Verdi’s Aida. As the aria unfolds, the English horn and clarinet offer wistful commentary. Descending chromatic lines evoke the sultry and exotic. Listen to the way these lines drop briefly in parallel motion with the voice (4:05) as the aria builds towards its climax.

Here is Maria Callas’ legendary 1961 recording with the Orchestre National de la R.D.F led by Georges Prêtre:

Recordings

  • Saint-Saëns: Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (Samson and Delilah), Maria Callas, Georges Prêtre, Orchestre National de la R.D.F Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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