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Jon Fredric West joins Choir, Masterworks Chorale

By Lucas Phillips '16

May 2, 2013

On Tuesday, G. Roberts Kolb conducted the Hamilton College Choir, the Hamilton College and Community Masterworks Chorale, Symphoria and soloists Cynthia Hanna, Jon Fredric West and Mario Martìnez in a dramatic and dazzling performance Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera “Samson et Delila.”

The work is an interpretation of the Samson story from the Biblical Book of Judges.  First performed in the late 1870s, the opera became an international favorite in the 1890s and remains widely performed today.

The performance in Wellin Hall showed why the opera has remained popular.  The triumph and despair, love and betrayal and the power of God are deeply reflected in the music.

In the opening scene, The Hamilton College Choir and Masterworks Chorale beautifully evoked the long tradition of religious choral music, which set the spiritual tone of the opera.

Jon Fredric West, lecturer in music and world-renowned Wagnerian opera singer, performed the role of Samson.  His huge voice thrilled the large crowd and soared through the orchestra and chorus alike.  The power of his voice was the perfect match for the character of Samson who, like Sigfried, is known for his incredible strength as well as amorousness.  His performance ranged from almost shaking the hall to the gentle beauty his last declaration of love to Delila, “Je t’aime.”  He performed the opera from memory, which gave him the freedom to act.

Though Cynthia Hanna, who played Dalila, could not match the volume of West’s performance, she sang with warmth and body and revealed a strong upper register.

Robby Wittner ’13, Brian Collett, associate professor of physics, Mike McCormick, associate professor of biology, Gabe Mollica ’14 and Jacob Taylor ’13 were also featured.  The concert was exceptional.  All the groups that participated did an excellent job and Kolb made the ensemble sound cohesive despite its size.  West, however—though it was no surprise—was a stand-out.  His huge and dramatic performance left the audience on the edge of their seats and gave a powerful portrayal of Samson.

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