Samson et Dalila is a grand opera in three acts and four tableaux by Camille Saint-Saëns to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire. The opera is based on the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah as recounted in the Old Testament's Book of Judges, chapters 16. The second act, the love scene in Delilah's tent, is one of the set pieces that define French opera. Two of Delilah's arias are particularly well known: "Printemps qui commence" and "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix".

"Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" known in English as "Softly awakes my heart", or more literally "My heart opens itself to your voice" is sung by Delilah in Act II as she attempts to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. In actual performance of the opera, Delilah is responding to Samson's words "Dalila! Dalila! Je t'aime!" (Delilah! Delilah! I love you!) which he repeats between the first and second verses of her aria.

This is not only a popular aria from Saint-Saëns's opera but also one of the most popular recital pieces in the mezzo-soprano repertoire.

Mezzo-sopranos interpret this aria differently. Some present Dalila with stronger power and thus sing with faster tempo and determination, such as Elena Obraztsova. Some play with the temptation and softer emotion in the context with slower tempo and dedicate legato.

I consider Olga Borodina as one of the great voices that combine both characteristics of the role of Dalila. Olga Borodina has naturally dark and rich voice (perhaps quite typical for Russian singers) and sophisticated and tender interpretation. Listen to her singing of the aria.

Olga Borodina with Valery Gergiev (Recital Version)
(Also listen to Gergiev’s conducting)

Olga Borodina live performance in Teatro alla Scala 2002 (with Placido Domingo as Samson)
(You can’t miss the duet in the 2nd verse of the aria)

Lyric original in French:

Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix,
comme s'ouvrent les fleurs
Aux baiser de l'aurore!
Mais, ô mon bienaimé,
pour mieux sécher mes pleurs,
Que ta voix parle encore!
Dis-moi qu'à Dalila
tu reviens pour jamais,
Redis à ma tendresse
Les serments d'autrefois,
ces serments que j'aimais!
Ah! réponds à ma tendresse!
Verse-moi, verse-moi l'ivresse!

Ainsi qu'on voit des blés
les épis onduler
Sous la brise légère,
Ainsi frémit mon coeur,
prêt à se consoler,
A ta voix qui m'est chère!
La flèche est moins rapide
à porter le trépas,
Que ne l'est ton amante
à voler dans tes bras!
Ah! réponds à ma tendresse!
Verse-moi, verse-moi l'ivresse!

English translation:

My heart opens itself to your voice,
like the flowers open
To the kisses of the dawn!
But, o my beloved,
To dry my tears the best,
Let your voice speak again!
Tell me that to Dalila
You will return forever,
Repeat to my tenderness
The oaths of other times,
the oaths that I loved!
Ah! respond to my tenderness!
Pour out to me the drunkenness!

Like one sees the wheat
the blades undulate
Under the light breeze,
So trembles my heart,
ready to be consoled,
by your voice which is dear to me!
The arrow is less quick
to carry death,
Than is your love
to fly into thy arms!
Ah! respond to my tenderness!
Pour out to me the drunkenness!
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