Review: WNO - Moses in Egypt @ WMC
In an end to the Liberty or Death! season, we get another take on the book of Exodus. Schoenberg's Moses und Aron (reviewed by Weeping Tudor here) was a highlight of the year. Here, we get Rossini's take on the story. As one would expect, it is drastically different.
Straight into the action, Egypt is facing its ninth plague: darkness. The Pharaoh (Faraone) refuses to let the Jews leave for the Promised Land and is faced with more and more plagues, leading up to this moment. He summons Moses, leading to battles over power and persuasion. Osiride, the Pharaoh's son is madly in love with a Hebrew girl, Elcia. He attempts to kill Moses, but God is having none of that and strikes him down. Moses with some celestial assistance, parts the Red Sea, killing the Pharaoh in the process. The Jews will reach the Promised Land after all...
This production is heavily inspired by the paintings of French painter, Mark Chagall (also Jewish). Colour coordination was abound here, with the Hebrews in blues and greens whilst the Egyptians were clad in red and orange (large screens belonging to both groups also matched this). The unsightliness of this was not as bad as some recent productions, but it was an effort for our eyes. The budget feels mainly to have gone on William Tell (reviewed by Weeping Tudor here).
In total darkness on stage for the opening, the illuminated glow of conductor Carlo Rizzi's baton was all to be seen. This sparseness brought out a production that craved more. Much more. Grand images of Egypt come to mind. The parting of the red sea was the massive disappointment of the evening: both screens set together and were slowly separated leading to two stage hands floundering around with blue silk on sticks. Both Jews and Egyptians embrace in a touching sign of reconciliation for the close.
Everyone seeing this agrees the singing excelled the production in so many ways. Clare Booth as Elcia gave too much concern to flailing in her sea-blue dress. Christine Rice rarely faltered and, as Amaltea, the Pharoah's spouse, she showed concern for the Jews but much disgust on the discovery of her son's secret love. Her aria with the moving of candles was heartfelt and one of the highlights of the music. Nicky Spence seemed to be enjoying himself too much as the hammy Egyptian high priest, Mambre.
Andrew Foster-Williams was Pharoah-like but never really pulled his weight in the role. His son, Osiride was here performed by David Alegret. With a more Hebrew look than Egyptian, he gave an impassioned show. Barry Banks was still shrill in his tenor, here as Aaron. The deep and yearning voice of MiklÃ³s SebestyÃ©n as Moses was another highlight of the opera. Leah-Marian Jones' brief role of Amenofi gave some good advice on love to Elcia.
With WNO declaring their new 2015/16 season the same day, they offer two exciting new operas and some insightful new productions.
WNO continues with Moses in Egypt, William Tell and Carmen (review by Weeping Tudor here) on tour.
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