Samson and Delilah 101: Director’s Notes

April 10, 2024 | By Opera Colorado | Samson and Delilah

Headshot of a woman with shoulder-length brown hair and green eyes

Samson and Delilah is a tale that has seen many iterations. It originated in the bible and has made its way into fine art and music. Each time, a unique take adds to the presentation of the story. Our director for Samson and Delilah, Keturah Stickann, will be bringing her perspective to this opera in May.

Learn more about Samson and Delilah, on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on May 4, 7, 10, 12>>


Camille Saint-Saëns first set out to write an oratorio around the story of Samson and Delilah. Luckily, librettist Ferdinand Lemaire suggested the work be written as an opera instead of a choral work. Aren’t we glad he did? We can certainly hear the oratorio origins, especially in the beginnings of the first act. Then, the piece blossoms into the gorgeous dance that only French opera can give us.


Being a former dancer and sometimes choreographer, I love the marriage of dance and vocal fireworks that French opera offers us. Movement’s marriage to music is a huge part of the storytelling. I find it irresistible when you pair dance with sumptuous vocals. I think that’s why I was drawn to French repertoire from the very beginning of my career. Of course, Samson and Dalilah has one of the most famous dances in the operatic repertoire: the Bacchanale in act three. Still, there is also a sensuous ballet in Act I, and even Delilah’s most famous aria, “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix,” carries a sinewy balletic line.

Learn more about dance elements in opera>>


Painting of a man standing over a lion holding its mouth open
“Sansón matando al león”
by Pedro Pablo Rubens

In Saint-Saëns’s time, people expressed alarm at a biblical subject on the stage. I love telling biblical stories because, like all great operas, they carry heightened versions of the emotions and humanity we hold in our hearts today. Samson, by all accounts, is a superhero, killing a lion with his bare hands, and mowing down thousands of his enemies with nothing but the jawbone of a donkey. He wants nothing but to carry his people to freedom and glory, but he has a weakness in his love for Delilah.

Delilah is a woman often portrayed as treacherous and evil who, for me, is doing the same thing as Samson: using her strengths to save her people from a sworn enemy. This is the crux of the human race. We are all so similar in our desires and humanness yet finding reasons to hate each other inevitably tears us apart. What could have happened had the story of Samson and Delilah been simply about their love?


Headshot of a woman with dark curly hair
Choreographer Rachael Harding

It takes a village to tell a story like this, and Opera Colorado has given me a great one. I’d like to point out two women who are walking through this fire with me. Rachael Harding is my choreographer of the two ballets. As a choreographer myself, having someone who can put their energy into two incredible feats of dance while I concentrate on the direction is a luxury. I also love collaborating on storytelling while speaking in “dance speak.” Frances Rabalais is my Intimacy Director and Assistant Director. She is there to cross my “t’s” and dot my “i’s” which is amazing enough. But her input into the intimate sequences only adds to the power of the story. I am thankful to these two women for standing on both sides of me, and to the entire team for bringing this powerful piece to life.

-Keturah Stickann, Director for Samson and Delilah

Keturah Stickann Signature

Experience Keturah Stickann’s perspective on Samson and Delilah for yourself. Get tickets today>>

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