A Rossini Treasure At Carnegie Hall
Gioachino Rossini: Moïse et Pharaon
James Morris (Moïse), Kyle Ketelsen (Pharaon), Angela Meade (Sinaide), Eric Cutler (Amenophis), Marina Rebeka (Anaï), Michele Angelini (Eliezer), Ginger Costa-Jackson (Marie), John Matthew Myers (Ophide), Joe Damon Chappel (Osiride), Christopher Roselli (Une voix mystérieuse)
The Collegiate Chorale, American Symphony Orchestra, James Bagwell (Conductor)
(© Erin Baiano)
Having just seen Nabucco at the Met two weeks ago, I could readily see that Moïse et Pharaon is an important precursor. Most obviously, the subject – the persecution and eventual liberation of the Jews – is the same. The chorus is central to both. And there is also a strong similarity between the first acts of the two works. But what a difference there is between them! Verdi pointed the way toward something new – music of extraordinary dramatic power and intensity. His music flings us into a world of teeming emotion. In contrast, there is an element of detachment with Rossini. No one could spin a tune or create a gorgeous vocal line better than he. Indeed, at Carnegie Hall we were treated to 2 1/2 hours of sublimely beautiful music, sung by a superb cast and chorus and played with élan and sensitivity by American Symphony Orchestra. What impressed me was the sheer beauty of the music, particularly apparent in the blending of voices in duets or larger ensembles, sometimes including the chorus. I noticed this also at the Caramoor performance of Guillaume Tell this summer. The instrumental writing with its various textures and colors was exquisite.
The chorus is central to this opera and, as usual, the Collegiate Chorale was simply marvelous. All of the varying moods of their music were perfectly realized and extremely moving. It was an evening of high points for them but none more so than their dynamically nuanced plea for mercy.
James Morris inhabited the role of Moïse with the gravitas surely enhanced by his long experience singing Wotan. Despite the fact that this was a concert performance, Morris conveyed enormous dignity. While there was some loss of power at the lower end of his range, he sang with lovely legato and dynamic variety. So a very fine performance from a distinguished artist. Kyle Ketelsen was a superb Pharaon. He made one wish the role was larger! He has a beautiful dark, burnished sound, a flexible voice and the ability to convey the essence of a character, even in a concert performance. All eyes and ears were on Angela Meade, fresh from her award at the Richard Tucker Gala and several Met performances in the title role of Anna Bolena. Her role was rather small here, unfortunately, but she still thrilled the audience with her dark, rich, opulent sound. It’s a big voice but deployed when warranted with great delicacy.
Vocal honors went to Marina Rebeka – Donna Anna in the Met’s new production of Don Giovannni. Here as Anaï, the niece of Moïse who is in love with Pharaon’s son, she sang with a bell like quality and spot on coloratura. She is also a superb actress. Her aria renouncing her love in favor of her duty, “Quelle horrible destinée,” was a highpoint of the evening.
Eric Cutler was a bit uneven but ultimately very impressive. But the second tenor, Michele Angelini, impressed me even more with his lithe, flexible voice and ringing tone. There were also fine contributions from the rich voiced mezzo, Ginger Costa-Jackson and the rest of the soloists.
It was a splendid evening.
Arlene Judith Klotzko