Mosè in Egitto was written in 1818 for the San Carlo in Naples. Rossini added the prayer that is this subject of this piece the following year. In 1827 he extensively revised the work into what became Moïse et Pharaon (a four act work) for the Paris Opera. Below is a synopsis of Act 3, the final act of the original version. The opera, especially the 1827 version, deserves more performances than it gets. The Met should certainly consider it.
On the shores of the Red Sea
Having crossed the desert, the Hebrews arrive on the shores of the Red Sea, but find themselves unable to continue their journey to the Promised Land. Leading his people and telling them to wait for God’s action, Moses prays. As the advancing Egyptians appear, the Hebrews are panicking, but Moses touches the waters with his staff and the Red Sea opens to provide a pathway to the opposite shore. Following closely behind, the Egyptians, led by Mamre and Pharaoh, enter the gap in the waters but they are swamped by the waves which close over them.
The famous prayer is started by Moses who is then joined by the rest of the Israelites. The invocation works – well you know the rest of the story. Here is the prayer as Rossini wrote it from a performance at the Hungarian State Opera led by Lamberto Gardelli. Dal tuo stellato soglio. This is followed by Sigismond Thalberg’s (1812-71) fantasy on the prayer. It’s played by the great pianist Francesco Nicolosi. Dal tuo stellato soglio – Thalberg.