October 11, 1741: Georg Friedrich Handel completed the second act of “Samson,” his oratorio based on the figure from the Book of Judges.
Samson – written in three acts – is considered one of Handel’s finest dramatic works. It is usually performed as an oratorio in concert form, but on occasion has also been staged as an opera. The well-known arias “Let the bright Seraphim” (for soprano) and “Total eclipse” (for tenor) are often performed separately in concert.
It uses a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton, who based it on Milton’s Samson Agonistes , which in turn was based on the figure Samson in Chapter 16 of the Book of Judges.
The premier was given at Covent Garden in London on February 18, 1743, with the incidental organ music probably the recently completed concerto in A major. The oratorio was a great success, leading to a total of seven performances in its first season, the most in a single season of any of his oratorios. Samson retained its popularity throughout Handel’s lifetime and has never fallen entirely out of favor since.
The stamps for today’s post include a 1971 issue by Israel Post, Scott Number 440, commemorating “Samson and Delilah” at the Israel National Opera; a 1952 issue by Deutsche Post der DDR honoring G. F. Handel; and a Royal Mail issue of 1973 depicting Covent Garden.