Rossini: Mosè Egitto / Fogliani, Et Al
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ROSSINI Mosè in Egitto • Antonino Fogliani, cond; Lorenzo Regazzo ( Mosè ); Akie Amou ( Elcìa ); Wojtek Gierlach ( Faraone ); Filippo Adami ( Osiride ); Rossella Bevacqua ( Amaltea ); Giogio Trucco ( Aronne ); Karen Bandelow ( Amenofi ); Giuseppe Fedeli ( Mambre ); San Pietro a Majella Ch; Wildbad Wind Band; Württemberg PO • NAXOS 8.660220 (2 CDs: 136:38) Live: Bad Wildbad 7/2006
Naxos provides a bit of operatic history on the back liner of this latest addition in their Rossini in Wildbad festival recordings. Mosè in Egitto (1819 Naples version) was “reworked in 1822 for Paris with new arias, but is given here in the slightly revised Italian version of 1819 which includes the famous act III Preghiera of Moses.” If I may elaborate: first there was Mosè in Egitto , an “Azione tragico-sacra in tre atti” that premiered in 1818 (Naples). It was not a success. Rossini dropped Amaltea’s second-act aria and rewrote the third act, expanding it and inserting the Preghiera “Dal tuo stellato soglio.” The Preghiera became a hit, and the opera became a modest success. The original third act is lost, so a reconstruction of the 1818 original is not possible.
Since Naxos mentions the Paris version, so will I. When Rossini moved his compositional base to Paris, he reworked some of his earlier operas. He turned the three-act Mosè in Egitto into the four-act Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le Passage de la Mer Rouge , complete with a new first act, some new characters (and good-bye to a few old ones), some new arias, and (reluctantly) a ballet. Presto, the “Azione tragico-sacra in tre atti” was now a four-act Grand Opera. When the text of this new version was translated into Italian, it was titled Mosè e Faraone (Sacred melodrama in four acts). So it wouldn’t be confused with the original three-act version, it was sometimes called Mosè Nuovo , and then shortened to Mosè. As you may surmise from its various titles, it is loosely, very loosely, based on the Biblical account of Moses parting the Red Sea. Characters and story lines appear in Mosè that have no Biblical basis.
Aside from the famous Preghiera, the most striking musical feature of Mosè in Egitto is the atmospheric lament that opens the first act (no overture precedes it). It is unlike the opening of any of Rossini’s other works, and makes an immediate impact. In the Paris version, this becomes the opening of the second act, and loses much of its novelty. Recordings of either Italian version or the French grand opera have unfortunately been rare events. Philips recorded Mosè in Egitto in 1981 with a luminous cast: Ruggero Raimondi, Siegmund Nimsgern, June Anderson, and Ernesto Palacio. Hungaroton gave us the four-act Mosè (with a few cuts and minus the ballet) under Lamberto Gardelli, also in 1981. Both are studio recordings. Philips briefly released on CD a 1956 monophonic Mosè under Serafin with Rossi-Lemeni, which is subject to a number of cuts and a cast not totally at home in the bel canto idiom. The only French Moïse I am familiar with is a two-CD set on Myto with Samuel Ramey, Cecilia Gasdia, and Shirley Verrett. Recorded live in 1975, it is also somewhat abbreviated and minus the ballet. The French version in all its glory is available on DVD. Another recording of this interesting Rossini score is always welcome, and although the Rossini in Wildbad cast does not boast a collection of well-known notables, such as the 1981 Philips recording, it is a worthy entry into the Rossini discography all the same.
Naxos has recorded a number of performances from the Rossini in Wildbad festivals, many of them Rossini’s lesser-known and recorded operas. Casts vary from acceptable to quite good. One of the goals of the festival is to engage singers early in their careers (they’re probably more affordable, too!) helping them to gain both experience and exposure in a notable venue. This Mosè in Egitto is one of the better recordings in the series; it offers serious competition to the 1981 on Philips and is better than the mono Philips under Serafin. Many of the Wildbad soloists are prize-winning, bel canto specialists, gaining experience and earning enthusiastic reviews, mostly in European venues. Many of the singers appear in other Rossini in Wildbad recordings. Conductor Antonino Fogliani is in his early thirties. He studied under Rossini specialists Gianluigi Gelmetti and Alberto Zedda and has garnered much praise for his work in the bel canto repertoire.
I found this to be an exciting and energetic performance. Stage noises are kept to a minimum, enthusiastic applause rewards the cast throughout the performance but is not intrusive to the listener, and balances are generally good. The Wildbad performance has more spontaneity than the studio-based Philips, but not as much sonic immediacy. A new Rossini recording is always a welcome event, especially when it is a good one of his lesser-known operas. Naxos does not provide a libretto, although the text in Italian can be accessed at www.naxos.com/libretti/660220.htm. The booklet includes a fairly detailed synopsis—tied to track numbers—that offers the plot but spares the reader some rather hokey lyrics. It can be argued that Rossini’s comedies have fared better than the dramas because the librettos are better. Don’t let a fatuous love story grafted onto the Biblical tale of Moses deter you from enjoying this opera. The music saves the day.
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Catalog Number: 8660220-21
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Conductor: Antonino Fogliani
Orchestra/Ensemble: Sa Pietro a Majella Chorus, Wildbad Wind Band, Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra
Performer: Akie Amou, Filippo Adami, Giorgio Trucco, Giuseppe Fedeli, Karen Bandelow, Lorenzo Regazzo, Rossella Bevacqua, Wojciech Adalbert Gierlach