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George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759)

Dramatic Oratorio by Newburgh Hamilton.

Tragedy Samson Agonistes (published 1671) by John Milton (1608-74).

First performance: London (Covent Garden), 18 February 1743.
First performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 20 February 1998 (concert).

As London audiences lost their enthusiasm for Italian opera, Handel tapped a new and successful seam of large-scale oratorio - dramatic works, generally on religious themes, which could not be staged during Lent. They could therefore employ large-scale choruses and dramatic effects to compensate for the absence of expensive scenery and costumes. Samson followed the success of Messiah, and contained a wealth of attractive melodies. Perhaps the most celebrated of these are Samson’s moving ‘Total Eclipse’, and the celebratory ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’, sung by Israelitish Woman to bring the tragic story to a rousing close.

Dalila (Delilah) (soprano)
Micah (contralto)
Samson (tenor)
Manoah, his father (bass)
Harapha (bass)
Philistine (tenor)
Philistine Woman (soprano)
Israelitish Man (tenor)
Israelitish Woman (soprano)
Messenger (tenor or soprano)

Plot Summary
Samson, blinded and imprisoned, is comforted by the chorus, and he is then visited by three characters who assist his development as an instrument of divine will. His father Manoah, an old man, comes first, and encourages him to believe he will one day be released. His wife, Delilah, who had earlier betrayed him and allowed his capture, now comes to beg his forgiveness. However when this is denied her true character is again revealed. He is then taunted by Harapha, a rival strong man. The Philistines are in their temple celebrating the festival of Dagon. They summon Samson to provide amusement. A messenger brings news that Samson has pulled down the temple, killing himself and all the Philistines who were inside.

The Cast

 Samson's wife
 a Philistine champion
Israelitish Man
Israelitish Woman
 Samson's father
 a friend of Samson
Philistine Man
Philistine Woman
Second Philistine Woman

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