from Rossini's 'Mose in Egitto'
1868 John Thomas had made what became a very popular arrangement
for solo harp of Desdemona's Willow Song ('Assisa
a piè d'un salice') from Rossini's Otello,
an opera first performed in Naples in 1816. In 1884 he followed
this with another arrangement from a Rossini opera of the same
period, this time from Mosè in Egitto (Naples,
1818). He arranged the famous 'Prayer' for two harps, with an
alternative version for harp and piano, and most probably played
it, in the first instance, with a former pupil Joan Frances Denny
(1849-1926), later to become his second wife.
The 'Prayer' comes from
Act 3 of the 1819 revival of Rossini's opera. Having travelled
to the edge of the Red Sea, the Israelites can go no further. It
is at this point that Moses leads them in the prayer 'Dal tuo stellato
soglio'. Their prayer is answered, and, at the touch of Moses's
rod, the waters divide.