Mosè in Egitto

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Mosè in Egitto (Moses in Egypt) (pronounced [moˈzɛ in eˈdʒitto]) is a three-act opera written by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, which was based on a 1760 play by Francesco Ringhieri, L'Osiride.[1] It premièred on 5 March 1818 at the recently reconstructed Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Italy.

In 1827 Rossini revised the work with a new title: Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la Mer Rouge (Moses and Pharaoh, or The Crossing of the Red Sea) (pronounced: [mɔiːz e faʁaɔ̃ u lə pasaːʒ də la mɛːʁ ʁuːʒ]). It was set to a four-act libretto written in French by Luigi Balocchi and Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy and the première was given by the Paris Opera at the Salle Le Peletier on 26 March the same year.

Riccardo Muti and many scholars consider Moïse et Pharaon, along with Guillaume Tell, to be among Rossini's greatest achievements:

I prefer it because Rossini himself preferred it. Don't get me wrong. Mosè in Egitto is a wonderful opera, but it remains very much a mere sketch for Moïse et Pharaon. And it's not just me who says that, but the great Rossini himself.[2]

Composition history[edit]

Mosè in Egitto, 1818

The opera was loosely based on the Exodus from Egypt of the Israelites, led by Moses, rendered agreeable to the opera stage by introducing a love theme, in which the Pharaoh's son Amenophis plans to prevent their departure, since he loves the Israelite Anaïs.

The 1818 opera opens as the plague of darkness is dispelled by Moses' prayer, and it ends with the spectacle of the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh's host, which "elicited howls of derision"[3] at the clumsy machinery of its staging at the premiere, though the opera surmounted its technical failings and was a hit. Billed in 1818 as an azione tragico-sacra, the sacred drama with some features of the oratorio circumvented proscriptions of secular dramatic performances during Lent.

Rossini slightly revised the opera in 1819, when he introduced Moses' prayer-aria '"Dal tuo stellato soglio", which became one of the most popular opera pieces of the day and which inspired a set of variations for violin and piano by Niccolò Paganini. Both survive in concert performance.

Moïse et Pharaon, 1827

The greatly enlarged work set to a French libretto was composed with so much additional music, including a substantial ballet, as to warrant a new title, Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la Mer Rouge (Moses and Pharaoh, or The Crossing of the Red Sea) (pronounced: [mɔiːz e faʁaɔ̃ u lə pasaːʒ də la mɛːʁ ʁuːʒ]), and was seen to be a separate and new opera alongside its Naples progenitor.

Performance history[edit]

Paris audiences had already seen Mosè in Egitto — both in a performance by the Paris Opéra at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique and at the Théâtre des Italiens — before Rossini revised it again, this time markedly, for the Paris Opéra.

Now in French in four acts, with a ballet, it premiered on 26 March 1827 under the title Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le Passage de la Mer Rouge. The first libretto from Naples was translated and augmented by Luigi Balocchi[4] and Victor Joseph Etienne de Jouy, who would later co-write the libretto for Rossini's final opera Guillaume Tell.

20th century and beyond

Mosè in Egitto was performed by New York City Opera in April 2013.[5]


Naples version / Paris version
Voice type Naples premiere cast,
5 March 1818
(Conductor: Nicola Festa)
Paris revised version
premiere cast,
26 March 1827
(Conductor: - )
Mosè / Moïse (Moses) bass Michele Benedetti Nicholas-Prosper Levasseur
Faraone / Pharaon (Pharaoh) bass Raniero Remorini Henri-Bernard Dabadie
Amaltea / Sinaide, his wife soprano Frederike Funck Louise-Zulme Dabadie
Osiride / Aménophis, their son tenor Andrea Nozzari Adolphe Nourrit
Elcia / Anaï, a Hebrew girl soprano Isabella Colbran Laure Cinti-Damoreau
Aronne / Elézer (Aaron) tenor Giuseppe Ciccimarra Alexis Dupont
Amenofi / Marie (Miriam), Moses' sister mezzo-soprano Maria Manzi Mori
Mambre / Aufide, a priest tenor Gaetano Chizzola Ferdinand Prévôt
(no role) / Osiride, the High Priest bass Bonel
(no role) / A mysterious voice bass Bonel


The score calls for: 2 Flutes/2 Piccolos, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 trumpets, 3 Trombones, Serpent, Timpani, Bass Drum, cymbals, Triangle, Banda Turca, Harp, Strings.

Onstage: Band (Piccolo, Quartino, 4 Clarinets, 2 Horns, 4 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Serpent, Bass Drum)


Act 1 set design of the original 1827 production
Act 3 of the original 1827 production
Place: Egypt
Time: Around 1230 B.C.[6]

Act 1[edit]

Act 2[edit]

Act 3[edit]

On the shores of the Red Sea


Year Cast:
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [7]
1956 Nicola Rossi-Lemeni,
Mario Filippeschi,
Caterina Mancini,
Giuseppe Taddei
Tullio Serafin,
1987 Ruggero Raimondi,
Salvatore Fisichella,
June Anderson,
Siegmund Nimsgern
Claudio Scimone,
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Audio CD: Philips,
Cat: 420 109-2
1993 Roberto Scandiuzzi,
Ezio Di Cesare,
Mariella Devia,
Michele Pertusi
Salvatore Accardo,
Teatro San Carlo di Napoli Orchestra and Chorus
(Audio and video recordings of a performance (or of performances) in the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli)
DVD: House of Opera
Cat: DVDBB 2113



  1. ^ Ringhieri 1760
  2. ^ "Riccardo Muti unearths Rossini rarity in Salzburg", 13 August 2009, on
  3. ^ Gossett & Brauner 2001, p. 783
  4. ^ Balocchi, the conductor and director of the Théâtre des Italiens, had provided the libretto for Rossini's first Paris production, the coronation opera Il viaggio a Reims, 1825, and for Le siège de Corinthe, a French version of Maometto II.
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Marion Lignana 2013, "Even with rough edges, NY City Opera’s Mosè reaches sublime heights", The Classical Review, 15 April 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013
  6. ^ Osborne, Charles 1994. p. 81
  7. ^ Recordings of Mosè in Egitto on

Cited sources

Other sources

External links[edit]