Small picture of Donizetti




Rossini's Moses in Egypt (Mosè in Egitto)

Welsh National Opera, October 3 - November 28, 2014

Photographs by Richard Hubert Smith, courtesy of  Welsh National Opera


This was a co production by Welsh National Opera with Houston Grand Opera.  They ran it in a short season with Rossini's William Tell and, rather oddly, Bizet's Carmen under the general banner of "Liberty or Death!" and toured it in several Welsh and English cities. Although using the English title, the opera was sung in Italian.

Alan Jackson, the Society's Treasurer, saw the performance in Oxford on October 17 and has provided the following review.

This was a musically very fine performance of Rossini’s first setting of the story of Moses taking the Jews safely out of Egypt. It was conducted by Simon Phillippo (taking over this evening from Carlo Rizzi) and the WNO orchestra and chorus were in fine form. The singers were all mainly impressive, especially the Mosè of Miklós Sebestyén. The rest of the cast sounded to me as though not quite all Rossini’s florid writing had been incorporated totally fluently into their voices, but nonetheless there was a high level of accomplishment all round. Rossini’s opera is as much about a fated Hebrew/Egyptian love relationship as about a clash of religions and the two lovers were David Alegret as Osiride and Claire Booth as Elcia. He has the range for this demanding tenor part if not ideal tonal allure; she was very moving in her final aria – it becomes a mad scene in all but name. Pharaoh and his wife Amaltea were Andrew Foster-Williams and Christine Rice (the latter having ratcheted up her voice from an astounding Bradamante in Handel’s Alcina just a week earlier). Barry Banks as Faraone and Nicky Spence as Mambre made their marks.

If Mosè in Egitto is more concise than its Parisian reworking as Moïse, its individual numbers are still expansive and some pose the director the same problem as in Handel operas – what action to provide during the set pieces. Occasionally David Pountney verged too close to the sort of choreography that works in Rossini comedies but is out of place here, and Amaltea’s re-arranging of candles during her aria could be dispensed with. But for the most part Pountney succeeded in getting his cast to act convincingly and the drama came across strongly.

Clearly WNO doesn’t have the resources for lavish sets (they turned up again the following evening in William Tell, and in any case the demands of touring are limiting) but the colour-coding of blue and red panels and costumes for the Hebrews and Egyptians respectively was effective. There was an oddity at the end. The panels separated to allow the Hebrews to cross the Red Sea, a waving blue sheet served as the flood, but it enveloped only Faraone and Mambre. The chorus Egyptians seemed to pair up with the saved Hebrews – wishful thinking?

Overall it was a rewarding evening, showing that if a company believes in Rossini, there is no need to impose any extraneous concept – his operas work on their own terms. WNO have shown what a fine opera is Mosè in Egitto. If it tours near you, don’t miss it.


The Team


Mosè - Miklós Sebestyén

Osiride - David Alegret

Amaltea - Christine Rice (ex. 28 November) / Linda Richardson(28 November)

Aronne - Barry Banks

Faraone - Andrew Foster-Williams

Amenofi - Leah-Marian Jones

Elcia - Claire Booth

Mambre - Nicky Spence



Conductor - Carlo Rizzi (ex. 17 Oct, 28 Nov) Simon Phillippo (17 Oct, 28 Nov)

Director - David Pountney

Set Designer - Raimund Bauer

Costume Designer - Marie-Jeanne Lecca

Lighting Designer - Fabrice Kebour


Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera



Mambre and Faraone






Elcia and Osiride



Aronne, Mosè,  Amaltea and Faraone



Aronne and Mosè



Osiride, Faraone and Amaltea