OPERA Samson And Delilah Glasgow: Theatre Royal, Wed 23/
Sat 26 Apr. 7, Edinburgh: Festival Theatre, 1 Wed 30 Apr. ’And she caused him to shave off ” the seven locks of his head . . . and ' his strength went from him.’ And
that, thought Delilah, was that as far as Samson’s famed strength was concerned. ’Power, control, sexual power and hatred. That’s what Samson And Delilah is about,’ says Antony McDonald, designer and director of Scottish Opera’s new production of Saint-Saens’s opera - the only one out of the dozen or so which he wrote that has had any lasting impact. It is, of course, the tragic Old Testament story in which Samson leads the Hebrews against the Philistines. Samson falls for Delilah, a Philistine, who is then set up by the High Priest of Dagon to seduce Samson in order to discover the secret of his strength (which, incidentally, he does get back with a little help from God when his hair grows again.)
The two title roles are challenging parts which may be one of the reasons why the opera is not performed regularly. Indeed, Scottish Opera's production marks the first time the company has tackled the piece. ’Samsons and Delilahs don’t grow on trees,’ says McDonald, who is clearly delighted with those he has found in the acclaimed American singers tenor Mark Lundberg and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sebron. ’Also,’ he explains, ’it’s a strange opera. There’s the first act, which a lot of people will say is like an oratorio, with gorgeous, sacred music. Then there's the passion of the middle act, which concentrates on three people - Samson, Delilah and the High Priest — and I do see the whole thing as being very triangular because of the High Priest. Interestingly, I believe it’s this act which Saianaéns wrote first. Then there’s the profane third act.’
Finding loin cloths ’a bit of a joke', McDonald has
’5 a. r "
Mark Lundberg (Samson) ponders no more trips to the barbers
with Carolyn Sebron (Delilah).
chosen not to set the opera in biblical times. 'I haven’t set it in one particular period, but I’ve drawn more on the 19th century period in which it was written. It fascinates me that when this opera was performed in Paris, thirteen years after its premiere in Weimar Germany, there was very strong anti-Semitic feeling in France. I’ve not drawn comparisons, but I haven't drawn away either from hiding that the Philistines are anti- Semitic.’
One of the highlights will surely be the famous bacchanale of the third act. 'We've made a strong decision to use the whole chorus for this. Often ballet dancers are brought in, but we use the seven and a half minutes of dance music to re-examine the themes of the opera, rather than show a lot of people having an orgy.’ (Carol Main)
ROOTS/ FOLK Café Graffiti
Edinbur h: Cafe Graffiti, weekend Cafe raffiti, at the bottom of
Edinburgh’s Broughton Street, was originally the Catholic Apostolic. Church, burlt by a charismatic sect in the 1870s. A century or so later and, according to current leaseholder Pete Simpson, 'it's still being used by a bunch of maniacs.’
The whole budding at the bottom of Edinburgh’s increasingly alternative Broughton Street is used by Graffiti during the Edinburgh Festival, but recently the enlarged basement has
Salsa Celtica: having a rum bean do
been the focus for rootsy weekend actiVity and a licence to operate through the week takes effect from June.
In the meantime, the usual varied bill of fare is on Simpson's menu. 'We're presenting a Flamenco dOuble bill on the 18th of April, and bringing over Al Bano Maria from SeVille. They're a quartet who play and sing the pure flamenco, as well as taking on board the original roots of Spanish music, but don’t ignore other influences. The Arabic element is very important — and of course Western popular music and
jazz. All the aspects, in fact, of contemporary Spanish music.’
Later that night, in a separate event, Salsa Celtica, Scotland’s ace Caribbean/dance outfit headline another Rurnbeando bash, and the band’s trumpeter Toby Shippey is back again on the Saturday for what has been the runaway success of his weekly Lizzard Lounge
He admits getting the idea from 'being in Brighton for some years and seeing the way live music worked on a club audience. I think peOple want more live bands. Dls are great, and we have good ones for a lot of the night,
but there’s a completely different buzz with real rriiisicaans I remember going to see Jimmy Smith when he was over
here and he was baffled by the idea of
people sitting listening to his music.
barid plays, maybe for eight
my ideal is like in Africa where the hours.
Music iaris J()lll and leave the stage, and
the darn ll‘.(; goes on and on'
lt's rjoiritj that way down in the i
Graffiti basement. With his mix of DJs, the soul/ja/z/funky Basic Collective, and the more percusswe Latin sounds of the topical El Cometa All Stars, they’re selling out every weekend. (Norrrian Chalrriersl
JAZZ Dave O'Higgins
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Tues 22; Edinburgh, Tron Tavern, Wed 23.
Saxophonist Dave O'Higgins is now a familiar figure on the British jazz scene, having made huge strides as a player since emerging as part of Roadside Picnic in the late 805 jazz boom. The rush by major record companies to sign up promising jazz talent (often far too early in their development) saw the band snapped up by BMG Novus, but the parting of the ways came when the company showed no interest in his own self-financed acoustic quartet session.
While he enjoyed playing Roadside Picnic’s fusion material, he also longed for the greater blowing freedom of the quartet. At the same time, he reached a realisation that Roadside’s ’co- operative way of running a band doesn’t really work. I decided that from then on, anything which had my name on was going to have to be under my control.’
Ralphe Bagge’s newly-formed independent EFZ Records released the album in 1993. He has recorded three more for the label, including last year's excellent The Secret Ingredient, jointly if loosely inspired by two primary sources. One was John Coltrane’s Ballads album, and the other — reflected in the use of a string ensemble — was Gil Evans’s work with Miles Davis.
’That was the third straight album with the same basic players, or the second in the case of Gene Calderazzo, and although I enjoy playing With other people as well, I'm concentrating on the quartet. I tend to lead from the front, and I’m the strongest influence on what we do, but we've been able to develop a really strong, coherent identity that you can’t get in a temporary Situation, although there are other good things about that kind of set-up as well.’
He plans a new album and an extended tour this autumn, but may have lost Alec Dankworth by then, since the bass player seems set to uproot to New York. Catch the current line—up while you can. (Kenny Mathieson)
Dave O'Higgins: blowing his own tune
l8 Apr—l May i997 rue usr 39