Review "Moses in Egypt": Epic Bibical Musical

Chicago Opera Theatre presents


At Harris Theatre, 205 E. Randolph
By Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola
Conducted by Leonardo Vordoni
Directed by Andrew Eggert
Performances on April 17, 21, 23 at 7:30pm; April 25 at 3pm
Buy Tickets
In Italian with English supertitles
Running Time:  Two hours and forty-five minutes includes twenty minute intermission

Hebrews verses Egyptians!  The legendary epic story of Moses freeing his people from slavery is put to music.  Chicago Opera Theatre presents MOSES IN EGYPT, an opera in two acts by Gioachini Rossini.   Focusing on the exodus, the story begins when Moses is negotiating freedom for the Hebrews.  The wishy-washy Pharaoh promises and then reneges, repeatedly.  In retaliation, Moses brings it:  the thunder, lightning and threats of death.  Alongside the familiar Old Testament tale, a love story is intertwined.  The Pharaoh’s son is secretly betrothed to a Hebrew slave.  Unrequited love and first born, it doesn’t look good for the prince.    Chicago Opera Theatre’s MOSES IN EGYPT is the biblical legend with a behind-the-plague romance sung with epic beauty.

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He’s no Charlton Heston but Andrea Concetti (Moses) still commands the stage.  Concetti’s voice booms extensive strength.  His duet with Jorge Prego (Aaron) is an especially  powerful bond to brotherhood. Although the title lead, “Moses” arias are sparse and limited.  Rossini must have banked on Moses’ brand awareness to fill the seats since 1818.  The show could be renamed “Osiride and Elcia.”  Sung in dual perfection, Osiride (Taylor Stayton) and Elcia (Sian Davies) are magnificent in “Ah! Se puoi cosi lasciarmi.”  Together, their passion consumes the plot and focus shifts to a remedy for the doomed lovers.  Separately, their struggles are lyric standouts.  Osiride’s arguing with his dad in “Parlar, spiegar non posso” and Elcia’s outburst of “Tormenti, affani, e smanie.”  Under conductor Leonardo Vordoni, the ensemble’s voices unite as a harmonious force capable of thwarting any plague. 

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Hebrews verses Egyptians!  If the Hebrews are the ‘chosen people,’ how come the Egyptians got the better outfits?  Costume director Cary Klein has pilfered the Steppenwolf Costume Shop to clothe the teams.  The Hebrews’ dress is pure khaki bland.  Stretched across the stage, they look like they prepared for their exodus by making travel wear from their sheets.  Sure, they’re slaves but come on!  The Egyptians have exquisite combinations of texture with flashes of gold finery.  The set itself (designed by Anka Lupes) is a sunken stairwell and massive wall of geometric shapes.  The backdrop of triangles is dynamic.  It lights up to set the mood.  Designed by Keith Parham, the wall reflects the vortex of emotions from forbidden love or terror of the unknown.        
Having not read the program notes before the show, I was a little confused about Elcia.  I thought I read in the supertitles she was one of Moses’ wives.  I didn’t recall Moses having multiple wives.   Post show, I could only find reference that Elcia was a Hebrew slave in the program notes.  So, I’m not sure what I read wrong.  Regardless, MOSES IN EGYPT is the classic exodus illustrated in operatic splendor. 

Enjoying Chicago Opera Theatre for the first time, Bill says “liked not loved.”

We decide to try Tavern at the Park, 130 E. Randolph, almost directly across from the opera.  From the host to busboy, the service is friendly and efficient despite the approaching closing time.  Our server Tabitha suggests a nice bottle of Merlot in the $30 range.  Bill orders the special, beet salad.  He loved it.   We also go crazy for flatbread with figs and prosciutto and warm goat cheese and tomato fondue.  It’s way too much food and we happily have it packed to go.  We overhear Tabitha’s other booth order one bread pudding that the kitchen should split into four quarters.  She remains the pleasant professional for the water drinking older ladies.  Knowing slavery can be a mindset inflicted on the service industry, we make our courteous exodus with a generous tip.

Chicago Opera Theatre photographs courtesy of Liz Lauren.

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