Conventional wisdom had it that Rossini's comic operas are wonderful and his serious operas are turkeys. I am an admirer of his Barber of Seville and Cenerentola but this is the first serious Rossini I have ever seen. On the evidence of this production, conventional wisdom is correct. This is a turkey, or perhaps navet would describe it more appropriately since it is in French. It is difficult to imagine that the composer of La Cenerentola could write such turgid stuff. If the music is bad, the plot is like a Hollywood epic only with less attention paid to historical accuracy.
In a brilliant production, La Scala almost prove that this opera is worth resurrecting but it does not really come to life until the third act ballet. Praising an opera for its ballet sequence is faint praise indeed. In the fourth act there is a good duet between Anaide (Barbara Frittoli), a young Jewish woman and Amenofi (Giuseppe Filanoti), Pharoah's son. Frittoli also gets a good solo aria. She looks lovely and sings as beautifully as ever but this performance confirms my longstanding impression that her one weakness is in her acting ability. When she sings it is as though her mind is somewhere else, like an unenthusiastic lover mentally preparing a shopping list: "Dunque, domani, gnocchi, pomodori, parmigiano " The costumes are beautiful, as you would expect in Milano and the split-level sets are sensational. The opera ends with a coup de théâtre, the parting of the Red Sea, but after three hours of this I too felt submerged in a sea of dross.
Oh dear, I can't believe I wrote that after first seeing this opera last year. I seem to remember that I had my ears syringed shortly afterwards. Maybe that was the problem. Anyway, this time round, Mosè was very recognisably the product of the Rossini that I know and love: tuneful arias, extended ensembles, contrapuntal instrumental and vocal lines. I loved every minute. The youthful cast has strength in depth. In addition to those mentioned above, there is a brilliant Mosè, sung by the Russsan bass Ilder Abdrazakov and a show-stealing Pharoah's wife, sung by Sonia Ganassi. Moral: if at first you do not like an opera, listen and listen again
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