St Matthew Passion
From: Saturday, 17th September 2011
To: Sunday, 2 October 2011
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Jonathan Miller’s staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion will be performed in collaboration with the Southbank Sinfonia.
Bach’s St Matthew Passion is presented in two parts and retells the dramatic story of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. Part one includes the last supper and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, while part two depicts His trial, crucifixion and burial.
Jonathan Miller strips away all traditional performance conventions of this sacred work: it is sung, in a new English translation by Paul Goodwin, by soloists and a choir – all casually dressed – who interact with the full orchestra of musicians. The result is a production conveying the full power and overwhelming drama of Bach’s final and most revered Passion.
Southbank Sinfonia, the versatile orchestra of young professional musicians collacorates on the St Matthew Passion, returning to the National Theatre following their highly successful collaboration on Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.
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20 September 2011
‘We recognised that there was no way in which the St Matthew Passion could be treated as an opera.’ Thus Jonathan Miller writes in the programme to his staging of Bach’s masterpiece: this is his attempt to re-assert the inherent drama in the Passion story, which can, as he rightly points out, be obscured and weakened by traditional performances.
However, Miller’s idea only partially succeeds: having the chorus leap up looking indignant or horrified or bloodthirsty, the obbligato instrumentalists moving on stage with the singers, or the soloists directly addressing Christ, works better in the second half of the piece, once Jesus has been seized and taken to trial and crucifixion, where the drama is more concrete. In contrast, the first half of the piece is involved with the mystic side of the Passion story, encouraging meditation on the significance of the Last Supper, and here the bringing to life of the action was a distraction....
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