Alinari/Art Resource, NY

Samson gets his revenge by pulling down the pillars of Dagon’s temple onto thousands of Philistine worshipers and himself, in this painting by the 18th-century Italian painter Antonio Joli. Samson’s captors hadn’t calculated that as his hair slowly grew back in prison, so would his strength.

In the Bible, Samson’s captors drag him out to entertain them during a religious festival, and he prays to God for strength so that he can “pay back the Philistines for [his] two eyes” (Judges 16:28). In the opera, Samson’s goal is loftier: to avenge his God and redeem himself for his misdeed. And like a Hollywood ending, Saint-Saëns’s opera makes sure the bad guy—or in this case, bad girl—gets what’s coming: Delilah, the high priest and the Philistines simultaneously cry out in shock and terror as the temple collapses upon them. In the Bible, when Samson destroys the temple, there’s no hint that Delilah is present.