University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Rossini: Mose in Egitto

04/07/2019 1:00 pm
04/07/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The Italian oratorios of the eighteenth century may have been unstaged operas, but there were also staged Italian lyric theaterworks dealing with Biblical subjects. One such from the early nineteenth century is Gioacchino Rossini's Mose in Egitto (1818). I featured a Philips label LP recording of "Moses in Egypt" on Palm Sunday,1986. I confess I forgot about this Rossini masterpiece thereafter. Only now in the twenty first century did I think back to it, and so I feature it again for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2019.

Rossini created this work in the sub-genre of azione tragico-sacra, as it's styled in Italian language. Mose in Egitto began as a fiasco in its premiere staging in Naples. A year later in 1819 Mose was produced again in revised version and became one of Rossini's most popular operas. In 1827, after he had moved to Paris, Rossini rewrote the opera yet again to a French libretto. This new Moïse opera was also hugely popular, so popular it was translated back into Italian and completely replaced the 1819 original.

That earlier version was recorded in digital sound for Philips with Claudio Scimone conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Mose in Egitto has more choral writing like an oratorio. It includes some of Rossini's finest music for solo voices as well, and the plot has enough love interest to satisfy those who expect high operatic passions. Italian basso Ruggiero Raimondi sings the leading role of the great Hebrew prophet. Pharao is the distinguished German bass Siegmund Nimsgern.