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New York City Opera Returns to City Center, Presenting Rossini's "Moses In Egypt"
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New York City Opera Returns to City Center, Presenting Rossini's "Moses In Egypt"

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Moses in Egypt
By Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola
New York City Opera
New York City Center

Conductor, Jayce Ogren
Director, Michael Counts
Production Designer, Michael Counts
Choreographer, Ken Roht
Costumes, Jessica Jahn
Lighting, Ryan O’Gara
Video, Ada Whitney Beehive
Supertitles, Kelley Rourke
Chorus Master, Bruce Stasyna

Randall Bills (Tenor) as Osiride
Wayne Tigges (Bass-baritone) as Faraone
Keri Alkema (Soprano) as Amaltea
David Salsbery Fry (Bass-baritone) as Mosè
Aldo Caputo (Tenor) as Aronne
Zachary Finkelstein (Tenor) as Mambre
Siân Davies (Soprano) as Elcia
Emily Righter (Mezzo-soprano) as Amenofi
Sam Given and Dara Swisher Carman as Supernumeraries
Press, Blake Zidell & Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 16, 2013

This avant-garde production, designed and directed by Michael Counts, was not only a sumptuous musical evening, but also a striking media event. This unusual staging of opera would be just at home on film in an expansive MOMA gallery as it was tonight at City Center, as it returned to its original home. Tonight was my first re-visiting of New York City Opera, since it left its home at Koch Theater, Lincoln Center. The intimate staging and refurbished Moorish décor of the hall enhanced the visual, even the listening experience, as acoustics have been fine-tuned as well. The aesthetic ambiance was a tribute to the space as much as to the company. The reasoning behind its media attributes is the inclusion of complex video backdrops created by Ada Whitney. At times the voluminous projections were static, black and white, or geometrically in motion as in avante garde film or even a kaleidoscope. At other times the projections had faux characters in motion, such as wandering figures in the Egyptian desert. There were filmatic swaying palms, rushing, bursting clouds, starbursts, suns rising and setting, and a cave for intimate conversation and embrace, that approached then enveloped the performers. The pièce de résistance of the projections is the dramatic parting of the Red Sea.

Rossini’s Moses in Egypt, also known as Mosè in Egitto, tells the ancient tale of Moses (David Salsbery Fry) leading the Hebrews from Egypt, with the obstacles of the Pharaoh (Wayne Tigges) and his army guarding them from leaving Egypt, while Moses summons God’s wrath to ease their path to the promised land. A plague of darkness is visibly erased, thanks to Ryan O’Gara’s extraordinary lighting design, combined with the evolving filmatic sky. The Pharaoh’s son, Osiride (Randall Bills) has fallen in love with the Hebrew Elcia (Siân Davies). In fact, these are the two characters who enter the dark, enclosing cave. Additional characters are Aronne (Aldo Caputo), Moses’ brother, Amenofi (Emily Righter), Moses’ sister, Mambre (Zachary Finkelstein), an Egyptian priest, and Amaltea (Keri Alkema), Pharaoh’s wife. The most notable vocalists were Mr. Caputo, with understated but projected vibrancy, Ms. Davies, with astounding luminosity, Ms. Righter, who drew the audience in with impassioned fervor, and Mr. Tigges, whose vocal phrases resounded with clarity and tone. Mr. Fry had filled in after the programs were printed, for David Cushing, who was ill. Mr. Fry was exemplary in taking on this lead role, and in future roles his projected vocals will strengthen. In fact, mid-way through Acts II-III, Mr. Fry was captivating.

Because the performers were standing facing the audience, stage front of the moving media, the choral segments were encompassing and compelling. Kudos to Bruce Stasyna, Chorus Master, and to the Chorus. Jayce Ogren led the City Opera Orchestra with vivid, spirited results. There was a notable supertitle glitch, with English translation halted then re-started, but this may be due to adjusting to the new production venue. Next season, I am sure, the company will be settled in. Jessica Jahn’s costumes ranged from long flowing togas, high Egyptian neck covering, gold helmets, exposed or gloved arms, and wide belts. Choreography was effective, especially when the videos were chiaroscuro geometrics. Michael Counts soundly made his mark, with this captivating, rare production design. Kudos to Rossini.

The Cast of
"Moses in Egypt"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

The Cast of
"Moses in Egypt"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at