Opera Scotland

Matthew Passion Saint Matthew Passion; Matthäus-Passion

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Johann Sebastian Bach (born Eisenach 1685; died Leipzig 1750)


Christian Friedrich Henrici ('Picander')


Liturgy (New Testament): largely from the Gospel According to Saint Matthew



First Performance: Leipzig (), 11 April 1729.

First Performance in UK: London (Hanover Square Rooms), 2 April 1854.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.



Bach's Matthew Passion is widely regarded as the greatest oratorio ever created. It has sometimes been staged in operatic form, though that hardly adds significantly to the effect it makes in concert performance. During the first decades of its modern revival, from the mid-19th through to the mid-20th centuries, it was usually performed on quite a large scale, with a big orchestra and a mighty chorus.

The traditional method of performance has been to have one solo tenor as the narrator (Evangelist) with a solo bass representing Jesus. All the other characters have been taken by solo soprano, alto, tenor and bass, who have taken turns to sing the arias. The population in the drama, and the congregation,are represented by the massed choir who sing the dramatic choruses and more reflective chorales.

More recently, research into period performance has allowed a more intimate style of presentation to become accepted, even with the big choruses and chorales performed with one singer to a vocal line. Those singers can then participate in the drama, repesenting the various characters and singing the arias. In any style, when performed with conviction, the work makes a tremendous emotional impact. However, it may be that in future the large-scale form of presentation will largely disappear.



Evangelist, the narrator (tenor)

Christus - Jesus (bass)

Petrus (Peter), Judas, Priest, Pilatus (Pilate) (basses)

Maid, Pilate's Wife (sopranos)

Soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists for arias.

The Cast

Alto 1
Alto 2
Bass 1
Bass 2
Soprano 1
Soprano 2
Tenor 1
Tenor 2

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