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date: 19 January 2021


  • M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet


Drame mêlé de chants in three acts by Etienne-Nicolas Méhul to a libretto by Alexandre Duval after Genesis xxxvii–xlvi; Paris, Opéra-Comique (Théâtre Feydeau), 17 February 1807.

Although favoured by the pharaoh, Joseph (haute-contre), known in Egypt as Cléophas, misses his family and homeland. When famine brings his brothers there, he grants them his protection and hospitality. They fail to recognize him and this allows Joseph to test whether their remorse over selling him into slavery is genuine. When Ruben (tenor) mentions that their father is nearby, Joseph decides to go to the Israelites’ camp outside Memphis. First he meets Siméon (tenor), now almost mad with feelings of guilt, and becomes convinced of his brother’s repentance. The Israelites’ morning prayers are heard in the distance. Joseph is so overcome by seeing his youngest brother Benjamin (soprano) and then his father Jacob (baritone) again that he almost reveals his identity; but, warned by Utobal (baritone), he has to leave to intercede with the pharaoh: Joseph’s enemies have criticized his generosity towards foreigners. During Joseph’s absence Siméon confesses his crime to Jacob. At first Jacob denounces him and his guilty brothers, but Benjamin and later Joseph (still incognito) plead for them. Jacob begins to relent; Joseph reveals his identity and forgives them. The pharaoh has granted them sanctuary on Joseph’s request, and all thank God for his goodness and mercy....

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