Notes and Editorial Reviews
Stage Director: Luca Ronconi
Picture Format: 16:9
Sound Format: LPCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Running Time: 181 mins
Region Code: NTSC All
Subtitle Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Recording Date: Teatro degli Arcinboldi, Milan, Dec 2003
Rossini was already established and successful when he went to Paris in 1824 to compose for the Opéra and the Théâtre-Italien. His first productions in French were reworkings of his Italian operas
, transformed into
Le siege de Corinthe
Moïse et Pharaon
Mosè in Egitto
, librettist Andrea Leone Tottola was confronted with the problem of introducing a lead female character into the Biblical story of Moses, the plagues in Egypt, and the exodus of the Jews. He invented the character of Moses’ niece and her love affair with an Egyptian. This plot device also provided a motive for the Pharaoh’s refusal to free the Jews: Amenophis was afraid that Elcia would leave with her people. In the original Italian version, the Eyptian prince was cast as an alto, a practice Rossini often employed to have a balance of voice types.
When the opera was reworked for Paris, Luigi Balocchi and Etienne de Jouy did more than merely translate the text. They re-ordered a number of scenes to follow more accurately the Biblical story of the 10 plagues; they added four additional scenes, and the original three acts were expanded into four. One of the most effective of these new scenes is in the first act, when Moses receives the Ten Commandments. This may be an impressive opening to the opera, but in the Bible, this moment occurs
the parting of the Red Sea and the exodus, events that are the opera’s grand climax.
Balocchi and Jouy renamed many of the characters, and a new character, Queen Sinais, was added to the cast. The full title became
Moïses et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la Mer Rouge
. Other changes from the Italian original were Rossini’s expanded orchestration, a tenor singing the Eqyptian Prince rather than an alto, the insertion of a 25-minute ballet at the beginning of act III, and an orchestral movement that closes the opera. Rossini was not happy about the inclusion of a ballet, but capitulated to French expectations. The orchestral finale was regarded as something daringly novel.
By 1827, the opera had been translated back into Italian and the title shortened to
Mosé et Faraone
(to distinguish it from
) and often as
Il Mosé nuovo
. Later on, the French to Italian title was shortened further to just
It was first presented in Italy as an oratorio (1829) and later on staged as an opera. Once there were two Italian versions available, opera directors began to pick and chose between the two, creating their own configurations. The opera(s) in its various forms stayed in the repertoire until 1865.
It’s pretty much a stand-there-and-sing-at-you opera with stock situations of love, fear, good guy-bad guy, power, and conflict with lots of prayers, entreaties, threats, and not much action. The characters are rather two-dimensional with little, if any, development. Unlike many of Rossini’s operas,
has considerable choral work, few arias, and the recitatives are more arioso than declamation. To cater to the French expectations of spectacle, the big moment in
is the parting of the Red Sea at the end of the fourth act. Balzac called the French version a “monumental musical poem.”
Which brings us to this DVD. Muti and La Scala (performing at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan) deliver all four acts of
Moïse et Pharaon
in all of its splendor, complete with the 25-minute ballet. This is a magnificent production. It is three hours long, spans two DVDs, but is totally absorbing from beginning to end. The soloists are in their prime; all have beautiful voices and offer convincing performances. The sets are an interesting mix of elements (desert sands, temples, organ pipes, et al.) that add visual appeal. The director, Luca Ronconi, has used the large cast to create attractive stage pictures with eye-appealing composition. Ricardo Muti is firmly in control as he moves the action forward with an increasing momentum. The third act finale is especially exciting and brilliant when Muti whips the cast and orchestra into a frenzy. The ballet is unusual, but interesting and quite athletic. The sound (especially in 5.1) and picture are excellent, although some of the visual gimmicks (cross fades and shots of Muti and Moses superimposed over the on-stage picture) are of dubious merit.
The picture format is 16:9 anamorphic NTSC widescreen; the sound choices are DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, LPCM Stereo. Subtitles are available in English, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian.
This video is a rare opportunity to experience
Moïse et Pharaon
in the original French with the ballet. Lamberto Gardelli with Hungarian singers and orchestra recorded the opera sung in Italian as
in 1981, although he omitted the ballet and a tenor-baritone duet that he felt was redundant to material sung later in the opera. Claudio Scimone recorded the original Italian
Mosé in Egitto
for Phillips in 1992. If you like Rossini’s operas, or French grand opera, don’t miss this one!
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Works on This Recording
Moïse et Pharaon by Gioachino Rossini
Antonello Ceron (Tenor),
Tomislav Muzek (Tenor),
Giorgio Giuseppini (Bass),
Giuseppe Filianoti (Tenor),
Ildar Abdrazakov (Bass),
Barbara Frittoli (Soprano),
Sonia Ganassi (Mezzo Soprano),
Erwin Schrott (Bass),
Nino Surguladze (Mezzo Soprano),
Maurizio Muraro (Bass)
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,
Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Written: By 1827; Italy
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