Opera Scotland

Greek Passion The Greek Passion; Řecké pašije

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Bohuslav Martinů (born Polička, 8 December 1890; died Liestal, Switzerland, 28 August 1959)


The composer


Novel Christ Recrucified (1948) by Nikos Kazantzakis (1885-1957) translated by Jonathan Griffin.



First version:

First performance: Bregenz (Festspielhaus), 20 July 1999.

First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 25 April 2000.

Revised version:

First performance: Zurich (Opernhaus), 9 June 1961.

First UK performance: Cardiff (New Theatre), 29 April 1981.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 13 August 1990 (concert).

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The last opera by Martinů was composed to his own English language libretto, initially for performance at Covent Garden in 1957. That plan fell through when the work was rejected by the opera house management, and he revised it for performance at Zurich. This revision was introduced to Britain by Sir Charles Mackerras at Welsh National, and that production was announced for a visit to Edinburgh at its revival a couple of years later – again that did not come off. When the 1990 Festival had Martinů as one of its main themes, the work was at last given, though only in concert, with a Czech conductor and orchestra, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, and most of the singers who had appeared in Cardiff. David Pountney eventually directed a reconstruction of the original version in Bregenz and at Covent Garden, where its history should have started.


Main Characters

Manolios, a shepherd (tenor)

Katerina, a young widow (soprano)

Grigoris, Priest of Lykovrissi (bass)

Kostandis, a café owner (baritone)

Fotis, Priest of the refugees (bass)

Yannakos, a pedlar (tenor)

Lenio, engaged to Manolios (soprano)

Nikolios, a shepherd boy (mezzo-soprano)

Panait, Katerina’s lover (tenor)


Plot Summary

At Easter, in a Greek village, in the early twentieth century, the priest gives out the parts for the performance of a passion play planned for the following year (the chosen actors are believed to need a year to contemplate the meaning of their roles). Manolios will be Christ and Katerina Mary Magdalene. When some refugees arrive, fleeing from the Turks, they are not welcomed by Grigoris, and when one dies of starvation, he claims it must be cholera. But Manolios shows them a spot where they can camp nearby. As Katerina becomes more obsessed with Manolios, he becomes almost more of a Christ-like figure, rejecting her love and trying to help the refugees, in spite of opposition from the villagers. He is excommunicated by Grigoris and then killed by Panait (who had been cast as Judas in the play).

The Cast

 a barber
 a refugee
 Priest of the refugees
 Priest of Lykovrissi
 a young widow
 a café owner
 a miserly Elder
 engaged to Manolios
 a young shepherd
 son of Patriarcheas
 a shepherd boy
Old Man
 a refugee
 Katerina's lover
 a village Elder
 a pedlar

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