Samson has been given strength and courage from God to lead the Hebrews in a deadly rebellion against the Philistines, where the name ‘Samson’ strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies. Only one has the power to bring Samson down, and the beautiful Dalila has vengeance in her heart. Her seductive power is too much for Samson. He fights against the hold she has upon him, but his God cannot offer the same warmth or comfort that this woman can, and he finally succumbs. But, Dalila has betrayed him. Samson and his people are put back in their chains. Blinded and shorn, Samson is thrown into prison to await his execution. As he is about to be sacrificed, Samson calls on God for the strength to take down his enemies. His prayer is granted and he toppled the marble pillars, bringing down the temple.
This old testament story is retold in Saint-Saëns’s sumptuous opera, where the rich orchestration and beautiful melodies tell of the extremes of human passion, and bring the action from the ancient deserts of Gaza into universal experience. Love, lust, vengeance, betrayal, fear, victory, and sacrifice are made visceral in this timeless opera, which could be considered one of the great predecessors to the verismo movement.