By attempting to impose the significance of contemporary history, notably the Palestinian/Israeli conflicts on Rossini’s thoroughly ahistorical Mosè in Egitto, Graham Vick, its director, succeeds in rendering both absurd. Rossini is not a composer of depths. If there is profundity to him, it is a profundity of surfaces, of a classical idealism contained in Romantic guises. Vick’s production, however, attempts to render the opera as a pondering on recent Middle
Eastern wars and conflicts. In his peculiar, perverse understanding of Rossini, it ends with a Palestinian child suicide bomber about to blow up an Israeli soldier. Imagine that, if you will, and try not to be horrified at the many other violences Vick brings to bear upon an opera that simply will not tolerate them.
Post-modernism has a lot to answer for in all the arts. Perhaps, currently, it is in opera productions where it still holds, crazily, most sway. The madness of this production is clear from the start in the incongruity of almost every detail, no part fitting in with any other or seeming to belong to the same world. The stage is constantly active. So is the theater itself with chorus members and others drenched in blood, carrying dead children, posting photographs of the missing on walls. But, save for the abuse of history for the purposes of theatre, none of it makes any sense. What are all those computers being used for? Why are people being filmed? What are those kitschy Egyptian statues and enamel gold throne doing there? And soon and on. It’s all a hodgepodge, a farrago, a mess.
History, especially the history that this production attempts to impose on what is a most fragile libretto, is a complex, ambiguous, and difficult record of often great cruelties. To use those cruelties as a way of giving weight to a work that cannot bear it is to ruin the work and to violate history. Terrorism is not what Rossini’s opera is in any shape or form about. There is something disturbingly immoral about suggesting that it is, immoral, abusive, and offensive to the very history it pretends to evoke.
The only way, I think, this opera can still live on an operatic stage today is for its presentation to be as close to its own era, the early 19th century, as possible, not to ours. It is a strange piece, untrue to the bible, untrue to any known history anywhere, anytime, yet still possibly valid if its peculiar musical position between classicism and romanticism is observed. It contains far too much recitative, but its best moments remain moving and frequently beautiful, though not as sung in this self-important and disastrously overburdened production.
The worst thing about post-modern productions of opera is how its directors impose their politics on a work they are in no other way responsive to. It is the vanity of the director one has to suffer from, time after time, while the true, real creators are betrayed, here none more so, of course, than Rossini. What one hears is so inapt for what one sees that the music becomes not deeper but seemingly more irrelevant, arbitrary, and even trivial. And that is perhaps the worst sort of betrayal. Rossini’s “serious” operas are not any of those things. But what they are and why we should pay attention to them are not easy to discern. A truly great production would show us the way. Where are they?
- Format: NTSC
- Language: German
- Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian
- Region: All Regions
- Number of discs: 2
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 25 May 2018
- Run Time: 150 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B07C8ZQCQ6