There is much to be said for seeing a production that's so different from anything else you've seen before, it's hard to place it in context in order to talk about it.
It is safe to call Yoav Gal's Mosheh an opera, and more specifically a "VideOpera" as it's billed. But beyond that, this perplexing and outlandish work defies categorization. Best described as a fantastical manifestation of a psychological landscape, it concerns certain key events in the life of Mosheh, or Moses, who is played almost completely silently by Nathan Guisinger. The noise comes from the small, brash orchestra, directed vigorously from the piano by Yegor Shevtsov, and from the women in Mosheh's life.
The four female characters are sung in various acoustic shades, most notably the gorgeous warm tones of mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn as Mosheh's sister Miriam, who is presented as a sort of punk naiad-ballerina, and some of the positively frightening non-verbal vocalizations of Heather Green as Pharaoh's daughter, Bitia, who is costumed as a sort of half-Medusa half-Nile-goddess. Rounding out the cast of singers are Beth Anne Hatton as Mosheh's wife Zipporah, a sort of blonde Bride of Frankenstein who in the show's scariest moment performs the controversial bloody circumcision of Exodus 4:24-26; Judith Barnes, regal as Mosheh's mother Yocheved; and countertenor Wesley Chinn who, unseen, sings the role of God in duet with Ms. Chinn in her alto guise, the combination giving Yahweh an androgynous voice. God sings in English, everyone else in Hebrew (with supertitles).
Gal's expressionist music demands a lot of the listener. Occasionally lyrical and harmonious, it is more often repetitive, frequently jarring, and now and then literally painful. One lengthy sequence is accompanied only by Argeo Ascani playing the baritone saxophone in ways the instrument has probably never been played before (or perhaps it has, but at 30 times the speed, in a bebop solo); this music attracted and fascinated me, but repelled my companion.
The most effective use of sonic harshness comes during a scene in which Mosheh and his mother move hesitantly about the stage, never quite meeting or making eye contact, he in a painful-looking jerky manner as if bound. Hammered clusters of sound assault the pair for many minutes, but relent every so often and give way to a few seconds of appealing harmonies, which release the characters into relaxed positions—until the the hammering comes back.