This is the 1819 score (revised after the 1818 fiasco) of Rossini's biblical epic rather than the French adaptation "MoÔse" made for the 1827 Paris premiere, which was itself later re-translated back into Italian and as such gradually replaced the version we have here. It is to my mind dramatically and musically superior, not least in that it opens with one of the most effective introductions to any opera rather than postponing it to Act 2 as the French version does. Over a muttering ostinato, the Egyptians lament how the Pharaoh's obstinacy in refusing to release the Israelites has caused God to deprive them of light - and it's a really arresting opening, culminating in Pharaoh summoning Moses to whom he confesses his folly and repentance.
There is a parallel between "Mosè" and "Aida" beyond the obvious setting in that like Verdi Rossini succeeds in balancing the personal trials of his characters against the demands of narrating an epic tale: there are touching and melodious duets for Osiride with his beloved and then with his father - only for him to be despatched by a thunderbolt for trying yet again to top Moses. However, the strength of the piece lies in the big set pieces such as that introduction, the various quartets ("Mi manca la voce") quintets ("Celeste man placata") and ensembles, and of course the famous "Preghiera" at the conclusion. Rossini had by this time moved away from opera buffa more towards opera seria and ultimately his Grand Opera masterpiece "Guillaume Tell". He really knew by this stage how to handle the big scene without sacrificing the tender, plangent melodic vein we hear in arias such as Elcia's "Porgi la destra amata", sung with big, supple tone by June Anderson. There are in fact very few arias in this opera and the sole example for Mosè is in fact rather nondescript.
I readily admit that the cast features singers not usually amongst my favourites, although they are all accomplished Rossinians. Raimondi is imposing but lugubrious; Nimsgern impassioned but constantly afflicted by an incipient little break in the tone which drives me nuts; Palacio agile and flexible but very metallic of voice; June Anderson has a large, blowsy voice which hardens very easily as she ascends - yet all transcend these vocal limitations to produce satisfying, dramtically committed performances and they are complemented by a supporting cast of quality, including Zehava Gal's strong Amaltea.
Rossini specialist Claudio Scimone's conducting is expert and we have the standard professional back-up from the Philharmonic and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Philips' sound is typically excellent for the era.
There aren't too many recordings of this opera to choose from and most are live performances of the later version offering indifferent sonics, so this one from 1981 is the one to get if you want the better arrangement expertly sung in studio sound.