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. As is noted on Expatia, "this second version proved such a runaway box-office success that it was performed no less than 100 times between its premiere in 1827 and 1838".[2]

20th century and beyond

The Rossini Opera Festival, in Rossini's home town of Pesaro, has presented the opera periodically since 1980, beginning with a 1983 production by Pier Luigi Pizzi and revived in 1985.[5] It did not re-appear until 2011 when it was seen in a production by Graham Vick.[6]

It has been suggested in the magazine, Opera, [7]that Mosè had "remained virtually unheard in Britain since a concert in 1822", a production was staged by Welsh National Opera in the 1964/5 season in Cardiff, Llandudno and London. WNO staged it again in 2014 in Cardiff and on tour.[8] Also, London's Royal Opera House gave it in May/June 1994.[9]

In the US, Mosè in Egitto had not been heard in Chicago since 1865, but it was presented in that city by Chicago Opera Theater in 2010[10] and given by New York City Opera in April 2013.[11] As part of its autumn 2014 season given in Cardiff and on tour, it was presented in October/November by Welsh National Opera.[12]

As Moise et Pharaon it was given at La Scala in 2003, and again as part of the 2009 Salzburg Festival under Muti.[2]

Roles[edit]

Role
Naples version / Paris version
Voice type Naples premiere cast,
5 March 1818
(Conductor: Nicola Festa)
Paris premiere cast:
revised version,
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

Instrumentation[edit]

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)

Synopsis[edit]

Place: Egypt
Time: Around 1230 B.C.[13]

Act 1[edit]

Act 1 set design of the original 1827 production

Darkness envelopes Egypt. It has been brought about by God in order to punish the Pharaoh and his people because he has failed to allow the Hebrews to leave the country for the Promised Land across the Red Sea. Moses is brought in and the Pharaoh declares that, when the sun shines again, he will release the captives. Cautioned by his brother Aaron not to believe the Egyptian leader, nevertheless Moses pleads to God and light returns.

However, because the Pharaoh's son Osiride is in love with the Hebrew girl Elcia and does not want to see her leave with her people, he persuades the High Priest, Mambre, to help him. The Priest does not believe in Moses' powers and he agrees to find a way to prevent the exodus by encouraging the Egyptians to revolt against allowing the Hebrews to depart. The Pharaoh then withdraws his promise and warns Moses that any Hebrew who tries to escape will be killed. Amaltea, Pharaoh's wife, has secretly converted and she tries to intervene, but to no avail. Moses then threatens further punishment and is set upon by Osiride's soldiers, intent upon killing him, but Pharaoh arrives in time to prevent it. Moses then prays for fire to rain down upon the country.

Act 2[edit]

Pharaoh orders the Hebrews to leave at once, so as to avoid the curse placed on his people. Then, telling his son that he has negotiated a treaty whereby Osiride will be married to the Princess of Armenia, he does not understand why his son hears his announcement with little enthusiasm.

Shortly afterwards, Moses learns that Osiris has kidnapped Elcia, but Aaron knows where they are hiding. Amalthea is warned and accompanies him to find the lovers.

Together in the cave, Osiris tells Elcia of his father's plans for him and he suggests that they can live together in hiding in the countryside. The Queen with her guards and Aaron interrupt the two lovers, but they refuse to separate and Osiris declares that it intends to give up the throne.

Meanwhile, the Pharaoh once again reverses himself and states that he will not allow the captives to leave, fearing that the Hebrews will support Egypt's enemies. Outraged, Moses declares that the Crown Prince and all the firstborn males of the country will be hit by a divine lightning strike. Pharaoh orders Moses to be put in chains, and, to protect his son from the prophecy, declares Osiris to be his co-ruler and that he will be the one to proclaim the death sentence on Moses. Elcia then comes forward revealing her relationship with Osiris and begging him to free Moses and his people. She tries to persuade him to accept his destiny and marry the royal princess of Armenia. But Osiris remains adamant and immediately orders that Moses be killed. As he does so, he falls dead from being struck by a bolt of lightning.

Act 3 of the original 1827 production

Act 3[edit]

On the shores of the Red Sea

Having crossed the desert, the Hebrews arrive on the shores of the Red Sea, but find themselves unable to continue their journey to the Promised Land. Leading is people and telling them to wait for God's action, he prays. However, as the advancing Egyptians appear, the Hebrews are panicked, but Moses touches the waters with his staff and the Red Sea opens to provide a pathway to the opposite shore. Following closely behind, the Egyptians, led by Mamre and Pharaoh, enter the gap in the waters but they are swamped by the waves which close over them.

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast:
Mosè,
Aronne,
Elcia,
Faraone
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [14]
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

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Ringhieri 1760
  2. ^ a b c "Riccardo Muti unearths Rossini rarity in Salzburg", 13 August 2009, on expatica.com
  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. ^ Rossini opera Festival performance history on rossinioperafestival.it
  6. ^ Fred Cohn, "Rossini: Mosè in Egitto", Opera News, August 2013, Vol. 78, No. 2: Review of the DVD of the production
  7. ^ Opera (London), May 1965
  8. ^ Rupert Christiensen, "Moses in Egypt, Welsh National Opera, review: 'oddly anticlimactic' ", The Telegraph, 4 October 2014
  9. ^ "Mosè in Egitto (1994): Opera: Production details", on rohcollections.org.uk
  10. ^ Repertoire of COT on chicagooperatheater.org
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Rian Evans, "Mosè in Egitto review – rare Rossini inspires formidable singing", The Guardian (London), 5 October 2014
  13. ^ Osborne, Charles 1994. p. 81
  14. ^ Recordings of Mosè in Egitto on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk

Sources

External links[edit]