Samson and Delilah 101: Characters and Synopsis


Illustration of Samson including scissors, ferns, and a broken pillar

The epic tale of Samson and Delilah emerges from the pages of its biblical origins to an opulent spectacle in Saint-Saëns’s opera. This indulgent display of stunning visuals and dance includes well-known arias such as “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens itself to your voice”).  Learn the story before you see it live!

Experience this opera on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House this May. Get tickets today>>


ComposerCamille Saint-Saëns (October 9, 1835–December 16, 1921)

Librettist–Ferdinand Lemaire (1832–1879)

Premiere–December 2, 1877 at Weimar (Grand Ducal Theatre)

Source Material–The opera is based on a biblical tale found in Chapter 16 of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.


Dalilah (mezzo-soprano)–A priestess of Dagon. Played by Katharine Goeldner, who is making her Opera Colorado debut.

Samson (tenor)– Leader of the Israelites. Played by Rafael Davila, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Tosca (Cavaradossi) in 2021.

High Priest of Dagon (baritone)–A religious official. Played by Nmon Ford, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Carmen (Escamillo) in 2022.

Abimelech (bass)–A provincial governor. Played by Christian Zaremba, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Rigoletto (Sparafucile) in 2022.



The Sorek Valley around 1200–1000 B.C.E.


Samson and Delilah by Luca Giordano (1634–1705) from Art UK

The Hebrew people cry out in fear that their God has abandoned them, while their leader, Samson, encourages them to have faith. He galvanizes them into fighting for their freedom from slavery under the Philistines. Abimelech arrives and taunts the Hebrews, challenging them to believe his Dagon is superior to their God. An aggravated Samson fights Abimelech who falls as the Hebrews flee. The High Priest of Dagon enters, outraged to find a slain Abimelech. He curses the missing Hebrews and plots revenge.

The next day, the Hebrews offer a humble prayer as Delilah and other Philistine women emerge from a temple with flowers. Delilah dances with the other women and tells Samson he has claimed her heart. He admits to feeling tempted by her, but other Hebrew men try to convince him not to fall for Delilah’s seduction. Delilah continues to dance and sings of the coming of spring and all its delights to further tempt Samson to come with her. The two catch each other’s eyes and Samson appears to be spellbound.


Samson and Delilah by José Salomé Pina (1830-1909) from Fine Art America

Delilah relaxes in her home, confident in her ability to lure Samson to her and trick him into capture. The High Priest of Dagon enters to praise her for enchanting Samson. He explains Samson was blessed with incredible strength, but it seems Delilah can weaken him with her charm. The two plot to use Delilah’s influence over Samson to conquer their rival’s strongest warrior. The High Priest of Dagon offers her gold for helping her people by taking down Samson. She refuses rewards, claiming revenge and victory over the Hebrews is her only motivation.

As the sky grows dark, Samson arrives to profess his love for Delilah. She  claims to love him as well, but states he must share the secret of his strength with her to solidify their connection. Samson hears thunder in the distance and, believing this to be a sign from God, refuses to divulge his secret. Delilah continues to pressure Samson and he succumbs to her charm. Delilah learns his hair is what gives Samson his strength. When Samson lets down his guard, the Philistine soldiers arrive to arrest him, and Samson cries out in anguish over Delilah’s betrayal.


Samson is chained and his hair has been cut off. He expresses his guilt for trusting Delilah, so he offers his life as a sacrifice in retribution for forsaking his God and his people. The Hebrew people feel hurt and confused as they try to understand how Samson, their strongest warrior, succumbed to lust for Delilah instead of loyalty to his people. Samson is eventually dragged away. The Philistines prepare for their victory over the Hebrews and celebrate with the Bacchanale

Samson is dragged in front of the High Priest of Dagon and Delilah to be sacrificed. The High Priest ridicules Samson, and Delilah taunts him by revealing her affections had been a ruse. Samson is led to be chained between two pillars of the temple. As the High Priest and Delilah celebrate their impending victory, Samson calls upon God to briefly return his strength. He pulls at his bindings and brings down the temple, sacrificing himself and taking down his foes in the process.

See it for Yourself

What are you most excited to see in this opera? Let us know in the comments below.

Catch the opera on May 4, 7, 10, or 12 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Get tickets today>>

As we present Samson and Delilah this spring, we want to acknowledge its historical and biblical context. The opera explores themes of love, betrayal, and human struggles. While conflicts between groups are portrayed, our production does not take a direct political stance on contemporary Middle East issues. Our goal is to present a work of art that prompts reflection and appreciation for its rich musical and historical origins. Opera Colorado upholds the importance of our shared existence and rejection of any form of discrimination based on race, religion, or beliefs.

2 Comments to “Samson and Delilah 101: Characters and Synopsis”

  1. I would love to see this but won’t be in CO at the time! Hope we get some video and inside scoops on costumes, sets, the singers and what the bacchanale will be like (As a former ballet student and a present belly dancer, I am really curious to see how this ballet will be done).

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