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French Opera at the Fin de Siecle$
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Steven Huebner

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195189544

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195189544.001.0001

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Saint‐SaËns on the Cusp

Saint‐SaËns on the Cusp

(p.206) 12 Saint‐SaËns on the Cusp
French Opera at the Fin de Siecle

Steven Huebner

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Saint-SaËns's opera, Samson et Dalila. Relatively early on the composer had a premonition that this opera would be his finest accomplishment in the theatre. Like Massenet, he sought to achieve musical and dramatic continuity across operatic acts, as well as a marriage between developmental techniques and number opera with voice-dominated, cantabile phrases. In this respect, the second act is a remarkable achievement: the imbrication of the symphonic-developmental and number-operatic is particularly tight and worked out with cogent dramatic effect. It is among the most successful examples of this synthesis in the fin-de-siècle repertory, all the more striking because of its early date of composition and a relatively limited use of leitmotifs in the opera as a whole.

Keywords:   Samson et Dalila, French opera, number-operatic, symphony

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