06 Dec 2005

ROSSINI: Moise et Pharaon

Rossini's original Italian opera, Mose In Egitto, was re-adapted as Moise et Pharaon for Paris. A new libretto, the renaming of certain characters, some new music, a ballet and reordering of the original music make up the newer version.

It is certainly grand in the French manner and it receives a grand presentation in TDK's version. It was presented at the Teatro Arcimboldi when La Scala was in the process of renovation. The set designed by Gianni Quaranta fills the stage. Everything is large. His work is eye catching and seems quite appropriate. The director Luca Ronconi moves his forces around with aplomb, but it is difficult to create dramatic action in a piece that is relatively static. Despite a large cast that performs well, there is often the feeling that one is viewing a padded oratorio.

The chorus sings well and in the scenes which involve the chorus and principals, one gets a sense of what was to come later with Giullame Tell, as well as Rossini's successors Donizetti and Verdi.

Riccardo Muti is the gifted master of an orchestra that plays more than well. Muti is superb at controlling his orchestra and getting the most out of a cast that is never less than very good.

The Moise is the Russian Ildar Abdrazakov. He is properly noble in his acting and looks a plausible Moses. Vocally, the voice is a high lying bass, somewhat baritonal in nature. He has no trouble with the middle voice, nor the upward extensions. A couple of notes in the nether reaches are thin, but in all he is fine.

Barbara Frittoli is exceptionally ardent as Anai. She sings with great accuracy. In this version, a good deal of the ornamentation for all the voices has given way to straight forward dramatic thrust and it suits Frittoli well.

Giuseppe Filianoti as Amenophis, Pharaon's son, lives up to all the good things one has heard about this young man. His is a beautiful lyric voice. It is used with taste and his acting is excellent. He presents a fine figure on stage. Let us hope he stays in the lyric repertoire until his voice ripens He is quite ready and able to make a splash as the Duke of Mantua, Alfredo and Edgardo in Lucia right now.

Erwin Schrott as Pharaon brings a lovely baritone to his role. He acts with appropriate majesty. He too should continue to rise in the ranks.

Sonia Ganassi is luxury casting as Sinaide, Pharaon's wife. She hasn't much to sing other than to participate in the large chorale scenes. What she does do, she does well.

Tomislav Muzek is Moise's brother Eliezer . His is a higher lying tenor that Filianoti's. A nice voice of his sort. I only wish the costumers had done a better job with his wig. It makes him look like a nerd.

Giorgio Giuseppini is appropriately stern and unyielding as Osiride the Egyptian High Priest and presnts a voice that reflects his character well.

Nino Surgaladze sings her small role as Moise's sister touchingly.

The cast is rounded out by Antonello Ceron as an Egytian officer and Maurizio Muraro as a mysterious voice.

The ballet, which opens Act III is entirely forgettable. It actually intrudes on the opera. I realize that Rossini was only providing what Paris convention demanded. In these days of DVD, one may skip through it at fast forward or skip it entirely.

Throughout, the chorus plays an important role in this opera. Bruno Casoni is the chorus master. He has done a superb job with his group.

It is unlikely that another version of this opera will appear on DVD. There really is no need for one. This is an excellent production, well conducted and beautifully sung. You may find fault with what Rossini did with his original opera, but there is no arguing that what Muti's forces have done, is other than first-rate.

Murray Schlanger