Moses and Aron

Arnold Schönberg

Grand opéra in three acts Poetry by the composer

Performed in German with German and English supertitles


No coming shows this season.

Arnold Schönberg’s opera »Moses und Aron« is one of the key works of the 20th century and a challenge for every opera house. Following the performance of the piece in the Semperoper in 1975 (which was in fact the GDR premiere), this fresh staging by the Catalan Calixto Bieito is already the work’s second interpretation in Dresden. Conducted by Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic until 2017 and designated conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra from 2019, the cast features two internationally celebrated singers in the roles of the unequal brothers Moses and Aron: Sir John Tomlinson and Lance Ryan.


First act
Moses receives the thought that there is one "eternal, omnipresent, invisible and unimaginable God" from a voice speaking to him from within the burning bush. The voice orders him to tell his people, who are God's chosen people, about the one and only God and to force the Pharaoh to let the people go. Moses argues that this task is beyond him: although able to think, he is unable to find the right words. However, the voice promises to enlighten Moses' brother Aron so he can be his spokesman. Aron gladly accepts the task of communicating Moses' thought to the people. However, the brothers cannot agree on how this is to be accomplished as Aron expresses doubts that the people can love a God they are forbidden to imagine. Their people has lived in bondage, more enslaved than ever before in its history, since Moses slew an Egyptian. The Israelites therefore greet the news that Moses and Aron are on the way to them as the prophets of a new God not only with joy: whilst some still dream of being liberated by this new God, others fear yet more bloody retribution. Moses shares the thought of the one and only God with his people whilst Aron attempts to express the concept in a way that they can comprehend. The people are still reluctant to believe in this invisible God and Moses is ready to resign but Aron takes action. With the aid of a few miracles, he ensures that the people can imagine God. Despite a priest's warning against the perils of the desert, the people are now willing to follow Moses to freedom.

Moses has left his people and has spent forty days on Mount Sinai. The Israelites are becoming increasingly restless and resentful.

Second act
In vain, Aron attempts to convince the Israelites that Moses will return soon. By leaving Egypt, the people have lost all of their rights, laws and sense of order; now it seems as if Moses and his new God have also abandoned them. To avoid the risk of anarchy breaking out, Aron indulges his people and permits them to worship the Gods it needs: ordinary, visible, comprehensible. The people pour forth their joy at regaining their safe beliefs in an uninhibited orgy. Moses returns and puts an end to "The Dance Round the Golden Calf". He challenges Aron. Aron justifies his actions by citing his love for the people; he only wanted to restore the order they needed to them. Moses, who loves only his thought, cannot accept this. For him, each word, each image, any attempt at interpretation represents a distortion of the concept. That is why he feels unable to comply with Aron's urging to make the concept easier to grasp for the people. Even Aron's reasoning that his words and images are created directly from Moses' thought, that even the Ten Commandments are merely a reflection of the concept and that although God did not reveal himself in the signs he gave the people but rather showed them the path to him fails to convince Moses. The brothers cannot resolve this conflict. Moses can only retain the purity of his thought alone, without Aron.