Culture Magazine

Concert Review: Another Trip to Golgotha

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra offers John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Concert Review: Another Trip to Golgotha

At the controls: conductor David Robertson. Photo by Scott Ferguson.

There is some debate as to whether The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the 2013 work for soloists, chorus and orchestra by composer John Adams, is an opera or an oratorio. For Friday night's performance at Carnegie Hall, conductor David Robertson chose the latter option, presenting a straight concert performance of this two-act work on the wide but shallow stage of Stern Auditorium.
The genre of oratorio became popular in the 18th century, when church officials frowned at the use of sets and costumes to depict religious events onstage. However, Mr. Adams' work reaches back further to the genre of the Passion, a story that specifically depicts the last days and suffering of Jesus Christ. Setting a libretto by his longtime collaborator Peter Sellars, Mr. Adams eschews the Gospels for a contemporary text, retelling the story from the viewpoint of Mary Magdalene and incorporating poetry, texts and a modern context for this momentous story.
From the start of his compositional career, Mr. Adams has been lumped in with the "minimalist" school: Western composers who use short musical fragments to build enormous castles of sound. However, his last decade has shown a preference for melody and quotation, incorporating a Mahlerian style of reference and allusion in his music. Here, the model was clearly Bach's two surviving Passion scores, and the singers were given real arias to perform over the pulse of the orchestra.
There is no Christ "character." Rather, the spotlight is on Mary Magdalene, Lazarus and Martha of Bethany. Kelley O'Connor, who sang this role at the work's premiere, returned to portray Mary Magdalene in a potent performance that suggested love, madness and, at the work's grim climax, overwhelming grief. However, this libretto brings a touching end to her story as she encounters the resurrected Jesus in the guise of a gardener, hinting at a tantalizing future for these two figures.
Martha of Bethany is reimagined here as the manager of the House of Hospitality, a women's shelter that she and Mary run together. This was a driven performance by mezzo Michaela Martens. As Lazarus, heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris was committed both in death and resurrection, bringing a kind of necessary ecstasy to the figure and letting his instrument ring out brightly. In place of a narrating Evanglelist, a trio of countertenors (Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Nathan Medley) supplied commentary and spoke on the behalf of the divine.
This Carnegie Hall concert marked the second performance of Other Mary in New York, the other being a staged version in 2013 at Avery Fisher Hall. Here, the oratorio format seemed to suit the piece better. David Robertson again showed why St. Louis is blessed with one of the best orchestras in the country, with crisp strings and precise percussion emerging from the enormous well of sound. The second act was much more propulsive than the first, driving the story to its grim conclusion with the tantalizing hint of redemption in the ending.
The choral singers brought energy to the work, creating a vast shout of humanity from Mr. Adams' signature short phrases and syllabic writing. They played the crowd witnessing these momentous events, and sometimes the shouts of migrant workers or prisoners suffering from heroin withdrawal. At the crux of the work, they became a veritable Babel of voices, singing a great slithering earthquake of syllables, a portrait of the chaotic crowd of onlookers that surrounded Jesus on the cross. It was the most unsettling moment of the night.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Indulgeo Essentials Rose Gold Oil Vs TS Cosmetics 24K Gold Elixir

    Indulgeo Essentials Rose Gold Cosmetics Elixir

    | REVIEW COMPARISON Hello my lovely people out there !!! So after a long wait, I am finally sitting down to review and compare the two most famous gold... Read more

    6 hours, 33 minutes ago by   Khadija Beauty
    HAIR & BEAUTY, LIFESTYLE
  • Here We Go Again!

    Here Again!

    Despite a not-so-good garden last year (deer, bunnies, blight, and bugs,) I found myself at it again yesterday, setting out parsley and thyme, kale and... Read more

    12 hours, 16 minutes ago by   Vickilane
    CREATIVITY, PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Pain Perdu with Clotted Cream & Berries

    Pain Perdu with Clotted Cream Berries

    I really love simple things . . . time and time again, I am reminded that it is the simple things in life which truly are the best . . . Read more

    15 hours, 16 minutes ago by   Mariealicerayner
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Oscar Wilde - His Part In My Downfall

    Oscar Wilde Part Downfall

    If I've piqued your interest with the title of today's blog then we're off to a promising start. To be earnest with you (which is important, is it not? Read more

    18 hours, 36 minutes ago by   Ashleylister
    BOOKS, CREATIVITY, CULTURE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Jobs in Sri Lanka – Guide for Work

    Jobs Lanka Guide Work

    Hotel Jobs in Sri Lanka Hotel jobs in Sri Lanka with Dubai City Company. We are now helping to get employment in Sri Lanka. We are now working with several... Read more

    The 21 April 2018 by   Dubai City Company
    CAREER
  • Beautiful Whirlwind

    Beautiful Whirlwind

    It's crazy how so much can change in a week. Last weekend I was busy shoveling two feet of snow during a rare spring blizzard while trying to get acquainted wit... Read more

    The 21 April 2018 by   Hikingwithheather
    OUTDOORS, TREK
  • World Borders: Muslims Only – The Fork in the Road Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    World Borders: Muslims Only Fork Road Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    This is a world border which is slightly different to those in my normal World Borders series, as whether you enter this border or not depends solely on one... Read more

    The 21 April 2018 by   Jsbdsl
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL