- Moïse et Pharaon (rev. of Mosè in Egitto), opera
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Gioachino Rossini's "Moïse," also known as "Moîse et Pharaon," is one of the least-known among Rossini's mature operas, and it's not at all clear why this should be so. The work, an expanded French version of Rossini's Italian-language "Mosè in Egitto," was popular in its time, and it has been known for years to Rossini fans; no less a figure than Riccardo Muti has pronounced it one of Rossini's greatest works. Perhaps the biblical subject matter has been thought noncommercial by presenters. The tale is loosely based on the Exodus story, and Rossini, hoping to get around Neapolitan restrictions on secular music, called it an oratorio. Even the French version bore this label, and the traces of the work's religious nature are audible in it. The chorus has an outsized role, and the overture and some of the arias are straightforward and sober, but these numbers are overlaid with a great deal of pure Rossini, added by the composer in a total reworking for Parisian audiences. It's an interesting mix, colorful and not always coherent, but there's material to showcase the singers in this live performance from Germany's Rossini in Wildbad Festival. The soloists, the Górecki Chamber Choir, and Virtuosi Brunensis are fine, with mezzo-soprano Albane Carrère a standout as Marie. Veteran opera conductor Fabrizio Maria Carminati keeps things moving and welds a very diverse group into a solid whole, but this is a warts-and-all live performance, and the sound is boxy in the extreme. These factors will probably restrict the market for this release to Rossini enthusiasts, though the album may well inspire more polished recordings of the opera by others. This is to be wished, for it's an interesting and highly listenable work with much to tell listeners about the milieu in which Rossini worked at the height of his fame.