Mosè in Egitto at City Opera

I went to see the New York City Opera’s production of Mosè in Egitto at City Center , and I wrote about it for Bachtrack.

In recent seasons, the New York City
Opera has largely limited itself to chamber operas. Its newest
production marks a renewed ambition: Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, a
proto grand opera that ends with nothing less than the parting of the
Red Sea. Fortunately this scrappy but worthwhile performance showed that
the company can tackle large-scale works on its own terms, albeit with a
few stumbles along the way.

You can read the rest here. It was a frustrating afternoon: some very talented performers and interesting production ideas (Harry Kupfer’s Rossini video game) that ultimately didn’t quite make a full show. I still think it’s worth seeing, though: it’s a unique spin on an unusual piece, and that’s something in itself.

A few other notes, though. I wish City Opera would show some care with its presentation. (Their website doesn’t even give the address of the theater where they’re performing. I had to Google it.)  This performance was trumpeted as the “original version.” Putting aside the problematic construction of “original” and its implied superior status, that can’t be true: the third act of the first version was lost, as you can read in the introduction of the critical edition. (This production didn’t even use that critical edition; the program credits Hendon Music/Boosey and Hawkes.) I would have liked some program notes, but maybe I’m alone there. If you’re going to claim scholarly status, you have to do your homework.

But enough of that, the actual performance did exceed my expectations. The LED video (more like a TV than projection scenery) occasionally looks like the VHS version of the Met’s Parsifal Blu-Ray. Jayce Ogren isn’t a Rossini conductor but the orchestra is sounding much better than it did last season and it’s good for the City Opera to have him on board as music director. There’s some good singing. So still recommendable, if you like Rossini.

Photo copyright Carol Rosegg.

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  1. So you recommend this even though the singing is largely mediocre, the conductor has no feel for Rossini and the production is a concert performance with projections that are rejects from the Met's Parsifal? This brings us to a question of standards and expectations. What would your review be if this was the Met or your favorite Bay Staats. Everyone talks about NYCO as if it is some poor company getting by on a shoestring. The budget is 14-15m per year for 16 performances of four operas. Glimmerglass (NY's second largest company) does something like 42 performances on a budget that I believe is about half of NYCO. What does Steele do with the money? People should stop treating them as the little opera company that could(n't). BTW, this is my favorite opera blog keep up the wonderful work.

  2. I can't comment on the financial side of things, but I think it is a very valid question to ask. NYCO absolutely still has major issues as a company.

    But I think this is still recommendable as a performance because it's a rarity that is performed in an interesting if not entirely successful way. And I think they have an important place in the cultural life of NYC and this performance seemed to represent an advancement in reclaiming this place.

    I wish them the best. Maybe some of the management doesn't deserve this goodwill, but I want them to succeed for NYC's sake.