Mosè in Egitto
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. 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.
- 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.
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" 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.
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 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".
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. It did not re-appear until 2011 when it was seen in a production by Graham Vick.
It has been suggested in the magazine, Opera, that Mosè had "remained virtually unheard in Britain since a concert in 1822", until a production was staged by Welsh National Opera in the 1964/5 season in Cardiff, Llandudno and London. London's Royal Opera House gave it in May/June 1994.
Naples version / Paris version
|Voice type||Naples premiere cast,
5 March 1818
(Conductor: Nicola Festa)
|Paris premiere cast:
26 March 1827
(Conductor: Henri Valentino)
|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|
- Place: Egypt
- Time: Around 1230 B.C.
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.
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.
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 his people and telling them to wait for God's action, Moses prays. As the advancing Egyptians appear, the Hebrews are panicking, 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.
Opera House and Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
|Audio CD: Philips,
Cat: 420 109-2
Ezio Di Cesare,
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
- Ringhieri 1760
- "Riccardo Muti unearths Rossini rarity in Salzburg", 13 August 2009, on expatica.com
- Gossett & Brauner 2001, p. 783
- 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.
- Rossini opera Festival performance history on rossinioperafestival.it
- Fred Cohn, "Rossini: Mosè in Egitto", Opera News, August 2013, Vol. 78, No. 2: Review of the DVD of the production
- Opera (London), May 1965
- "Mosè in Egitto (1994): Opera: Production details", on rohcollections.org.uk
- Rupert Christiensen, "Moses in Egypt, Welsh National Opera, review: 'oddly anticlimactic' ", The Telegraph, 4 October 2014
- Rian Evans, "Mosè in Egitto review – rare Rossini inspires formidable singing", The Guardian (London), 5 October 2014
- Repertoire of COT on chicagooperatheater.org
- 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
- Manuscript letter (Paris, 2 April 1827) with the autograph signature of Rossini, addressed to "Monsieur Valentino, Directeur de l'Orchestre de l'Academie R. de musique", thanking him for conducting Moïse (BnF catalogue général - Notice bibliographique); Chouquet 1889.
- Osborne, Charles 1994. p. 81
- Recordings of Mosè in Egitto on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Chouquet, Gustave (1889). "Valentino, Henri Justin Armand Joseph", vol. 4, p. 214, in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 4 volumes. London: Macmillan.
- Gossett, Philip; Brauner, Patricia (2001), "Mosè in Egitto" in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
- Osborne, Richard (1990), Rossini, Ithaca, New York: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-088-5 ISBN 1-55553-088-5
- Osborne, Richard (1998), "Mosè in Egitto" in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Ringhieri, Francisco (1760), L'Osiride. Tragedia del p.d. Francesco Ringhieri monaco ulivetano e lettore di teologia. Padua: Conzatti, 1760. Eight volumes of the tragedies of Ringhieri, an Olivetan monk (1721-1787), were also published in Venice 1788-89.
- Servadio, Gaia (2003), Rossini, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-7867-1195-7
- Toye, Francis (reissue 1987), Rossini: The Man and His Music, Dover Publications. ISBN 0486253961 ISBN 0-486-25396-1,
- Allmusic: Mosè in Egitto
- List of performances of Mosè in Egitto on Operabase.
- List of performances of Moïse et Pharaon on Operabase.
- Naxos: Mosè in Egitto