Classical composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote two operas (I know of)–Samson et Dalila, an opera biblique (Biblical opera) in three acts, and Henry VIII, an opera in four acts.
What is it about big men that drove Saint-Saëns to compose music for opera?
hunky Eric Bana as Henry VIII
From Sunday school books to Cecille B. DeMille treatments, Samson was always pictured as a big, beefy guy. And of course, we know Henry VIII was no lightweight (though I did really like Eric Bana’s portrayal of the oft-wed king in The Other Boleyn Girl–more hunk than heft. Everyone knows that particular king had a penchant for lopping off his wives’ heads, and he was still a charismatic, even appealing character owing to Bana’s muscl–um–I mean, interpretation.)
I happen to like men with meat on their bones and hair on their chests. Therefore, my transitive property of opera is as follows:
If I like beefy guys, and Saint-Saëns writes operas about beefy guys, then I like Saint-Saëns, and he likes beefy guys. (Or maybe he just admires their biceps–I’m not insinuating anything untoward here.)
I confess I was thinking about Saint-Saëns this week–not beefy guys. Saint-Saëns and swans. I referred to one of my favorite pieces for cello–“The Swan”– in a story I’m writing this week.
It broke my heart after reading more about “The Swan,” the thirteenth movement of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, that the work was never publicly appreciated while he lived. Saint-Saëns feared that publishing it might harm his reputation as a serious composer, and so ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ was released to the public only after his death in 1921, according to his will.
And now we adore it. I sometimes blubber whenever I hear the piece, I find it so lovely. At the very least, I melt. See if you don’t agree, listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing “Le cygne”: