Regardless of his wealthy musical awards, Bach Ardour based on St. John is a controversial work, because of the characterization of the work of the Jews as an offended bloodthirsty mob through the trial of Jesus. The 13, the chamber choir led by Matthew Robertson and based mostly within the District of Columbia, added one other layer of rivalry to their efficiency of the work, broadcast dwell from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill on Saturday evening. .
Director Timothy Nelson directed the lengthy play with African-American singer Jonathan Woody portraying Jesus. Wearing a purple hooded sweatshirt, Woody was arrested, crushed and killed by the opposite singers in gestures that appeared meant to remind of the deaths of black males by the hands of American law enforcement officials.
(In a associated and disturbing context, church officers reported the invention of a noose positioned excessive in a tree within the church yard on Friday. The Metropolitan Police Division is investigating the incident as a doable hate crime, however there’s presently no proof to explicitly hyperlink the incident of Bach’s Ardour rehearsals and efficiency contained in the church over the weekend. additionally had two Black Lives Issues banners stolen from its partitions this 12 months.)
Bach composed thrilling however doubtlessly offensive choral miniatures to the offended chants of the Jewish crowd. The textual content comes straight from the Gospel of John, from the 4 Gospel texts one which identifies the gang particularly as Jewish. Robertson and his singers modified the textual content, altering the German phrase for Jews to extra basic phrases like individuals or residents.
(Many church buildings and teams at the moment are making such adjustments to the Ardour based on Saint John, and it appeared much more necessary provided that the efficiency was on the primary night of Passover.)
Underneath the controversy was a principally elegant musical efficiency, which Robertson modeled with incisive tempos and dramatic rhythm. The sound, as is commonly the case with dwell streaming, was not optimum, revealing quirks of tone in some particular person singers and inflicting issues with the steadiness between the orchestra, which was spaced aside to watch the distancing. social, and singers within the scenic area on the north finish of the church nave.
The general steadiness was most optimum through the choirs – moments of peaceable reflection that dot this usually hectic rating. As if to intensify the sense of calm evoked by separating the listener from the narrative, the singers flip to face the wrong way, trying upward in the direction of one other digicam. It was the form of alternative that would not be doable in a dwell efficiency however took benefit of the circumstances imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tenor Matthew Hill was a superb voice as an evangelist, spanning the vast spectrum from a low rumble to excessive clarion notes positioned with flawless precision. Jonathan Woody was agency and sympathetic in Jesus, revealing the strengths of his most aired “Mein teurer Heiland” voice, barely muffled by the masks, worn by virtually all musicians. The opposite eight singers joined the work’s many choirs, and every additionally took on one of many solo tunes, all sung from reminiscence due to the staging.
Clifton Massey deployed his stunning countertenor voice on “Von den Stricken”, combining a supple legato tone and certain intonation. Tenor Gene Stenger nailed down the lengthy notes of “Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken”, though the gesture of working his hand over Jesus’ scratched again, with Woody slumped in a chair, was repeated so usually that it’s change into ridiculous.
Mezzo-soprano Emily Marvosh sang ‘Es ist vollbracht’ in a tragic tone, dropping penny gears within the crisp B part tracks, accompanied by Elena Smith on the viola da gamba solo, positioned on stage with a poignant impact. Nelson’s transportable digicam angles and sometimes awkward staging sophisticated many of those solos, as with Molly Netter’s “Zerfließe, mein Herze”. The proficient soprano nonetheless managed to drift her clear highs admirably, accompanied by chirping flute and oboe, on all fours or mendacity on the ground.
Nelson’s directing was minimal, involving no drama and just some chairs rearranged by the singers scene by scene. The refrain, generally even whereas singing the sophisticated crowd songs, abused Woody’s Jesus in each approach conceivable: kicking, slapping and spitting, and folding his arms behind his again, on the ground, or whereas he wandered round in perplexity. The singers even took turns able that mimicked however did not fairly recreate the position of a police officer’s knee on a suspect’s neck.
One of many functions of the sung Ardour studying, developed by Bach in his Ardour settings, was to make the listener really feel his personal guilt as a sinner in Jesus’ loss of life. Nelson might have sought to switch this pathos to black individuals killed by police and ask the viewer to contemplate how members of the general public may be complicit in these crimes. On this gentle, the violent screams of those sophisticated and controversial Jewish choirs took on an entire totally different feeling.
This efficiency will be broadcast till April 11. thethirteenchoir.org