Performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion will be a collaboration with several organizations
By Peter Alexander
J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is at least three different works.
It is a sacred work, written and performed in Bach’s lifetime as part of Good Friday services at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. It is a concert work that has been performed apart from religious services for most of the 266 years since Bach’s death. And it is a dramatic work, the closest Bach came to writing an opera.
This weekend’s performances by the Boulder Philharmonic, a semi-staged production presented in conjunction with the Boulder Bach Festival, Central City Opera, the CU College of Music and the Boulder Children’s Chorale, will definitely tilt toward the third option. (Performances will be at 7 p.m. Saturday in Macky Auditorium, with supertitles projected over the stage; and at 2 p.m. Sunday in Denver’s Central Presbyterian Church.)
Bach’s score unfolds on different levels: There is a tenor singing the Biblical narration, a baritone singing the words of Jesus, and individuals from the chorus who sing the words of other characters named by St. Matthew; there is a double chorus, which sings large choral movements that introduce and close the work, the words of the crowd, and Lutheran chorales that symbolically represent the reaction of the congregation; and there are aria soloists who sing non-Biblical poetic texts that reflect upon the story.
To these musical events, this performance will add an onstage dramatization, but not in a literal way. “There’s very little that’s literal action,” stage director Robert Neu says. “What we’re trying to do is take it a little bit out of the realm of a traditional concert performance. The piece is very operatic in the way it’s shaped, it’s very dramatic, but given the nature of the piece, you can’t be overly literal about it.”
Read more in Boulder Weekly.
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Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
Boulder Philharmonic, Michael Butterman, music director
A semi-stage production with
Central City Opera, Robert Neu, stage director
Boulder Bach Festival chorus, Zachary Carrettin, artistic director
The University of Colorado, Boulder, University Singers and University Choir, Gregory Gentry, chorus master
Boulder Children’s Chorale, Kate Klotz, artistic director
7 p.m. Saturday, April 23 [Note early starting time]
Macky Auditorium, Boulder
Preceded by pre-performance discussion, 6 p.m.
2 p.m. Sunday, April 24
Central Presbyterian Church, Denver