& Delilah - April 2004
Atterbury - Kentish Times April 2004
A Miraculous Biblical Tale
sometimes difficult to find the words that adequately describe
the artistry and commitment of Kentish Opera.
as each year passes, I find it increasingly difficult to believe
that the company can continue raising its standards to such heights
Last week, the
Churchill Theatre hosted the company's production of Samson &
Delilah. Although the work was written by the distinguished French
composer Saint-Saens using Ferdinand Lemaire's libretto, there
is an enormous difference between holding the building blocks
of an opera and actually taking it to the stage. It is here that
the Kentish Opera's artistic director Sally Langford works miracles
on a budget that would probably be little more than petty cash
for some of the large opera companies. However, for this latest
triumph (and it was a triumph) for the company, the budget encompassed
a chorus of almost 60 singers together with 14 actors, acrobats
and dancers with dancer Kate Sanderson, in particular, showing
an agility and elegance that was inspirational.
there were Carol Stevenson's incredible costumes, Enid Strutt's
atmospheric and often majestic sets that brought great temples
to life, showed the luxurious home of Delilah and the darker
aspects of life during the battles between the Hebrews and the
this 'extravagance' impact on the quality of the principal performers?
Not at all.
National Opera, Carl Rosa Opera, Glyndeboume, and English Touring
Opera were just some of the credits that appeared in the cast
At the Wednesday
performance, Samson was played by tenor Philip O'Brien and Delilah
by mezzo soprano Gaynor Keeble. Their acting and singing were
faultless and the six ovations they received at the close of
the show were a fitting tribute to their performances.
the short appearance by David Hodges as an old Hebrew came to
an end far too quickly. The artist has one of the richest bass
voices I have heard for a long time and I hope he will be invited
to take on a bigger role in the future.
this was an opera with several and deeply rich (but baritone)
voices, including Michael Fitchew as the high priest and Gary
Coward as Gaza's chief official.
that didn't know that the opera contains a famous orgy sequence,
they missed one of the most sensual and colourful scenes I have
ever seen on the Churchill Theatre stage.
the biblical story of Samson and Delilah was staged with true
creativity and artistry.
Steptoe - The Croydon Advertiser - April 2004
wrote this as an oratorio but his librettist Ferdinand Lemaire
persuaded him that it would be better staged as an opera. Kentish
Opera confirms this view with a highly polished and dramatic
Sally Langford seems to have no difficulty in manoeuvring a very
large cast with deftness and aplomb. Her chorus has an articulation
and feeling for the music that is a joy to listen to; act and
react seems to be their watchword.
melodic music sweeps all before it and the tragic story of lust
and betrayal holds us firmly in its grasp.
The opera opens
in the public square in Gaza with the Hebrews in bondage to the
Philistines. They are rallied by Samson who encourages them to
break free. He killls the Satrap Abimelech and the Hebrews escape.
The High Priest demands that they be destroyed and Delilah tells
Samson that he has won her heart and he should visit her in the
garden. This is evocatively· set out with effective lighting
and with such temptations at hand who could blame Samson for
sinning. The climactic storm combining with the fury of the music
is extremely moving.
The finale which
takes place in the Temple of Dagon, the Philistine God that is
half man and fish, has terpsichore as a change from voice. This
is excellently staged and demonstrates a Bacchanalian orgy and
the humiliation of Samson. This only leaves the grand climax
with him regaining his strength and tearing down the pillars
of the temple.
Newman is Samson, the part being shared on alternate evenings
by Philip O'Brien. He has a fine voice which overcame a certain
lack of inches. Louise Poole sings beautifully as the convincing,
seductive temptress, Delilah; similarly sharing her part with
a baritone of distinction, is the High Priest of Dagon again
sharing with Michael Fitchew.
Coward as Abimelech does not have much chance to show his art
before being killed buy Paul Hodges (bass) as the Ancient Hebrew
has a voice with the timbre of supreme mellifluence.
Mark Fitz-Gerald and his orchestra accompanied the singers with
a warm urgency that filled the theatre with a magical insight.