John Adams new opera-oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary received its first staged performances in March, opening in Los Angeles and touring to New York and Europe.
Premiered in concert form last year, John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary returned in March in its first staging, directed by long-time collaborator Peter Sellars. With its simple, stylised production and three dancers mirroring the trios of soloists and countertenors, the Los Angeles Times described the staging as achieving “new, gripping expression on every level”. The reviewer noted how “the work’s great ambitions have been realized” and how Gustavo Dudamel “has risen to new heights as an interpreter”.
The full-evening opera-oratorio portrays the Raising of Lazarus, Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection from the perspectives of Mary and Martha, shining a distinctly feminine light on Christ’s final days. The text, compiled for the composer by Sellars, combines the biblical narrative with poetry across the ages, transporting events 2000 years ago into a contemporary political orbit. Following performances in Los Angeles, Dudamel led the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale and soloists on tour to the Barbican in London, the Lucerne Easter Festival, the Salle Pleyel in Paris and Lincoln Center in New York.
“…some of his finest music for many years… the subject matter seems to have unlocked a whole new expression range in his writing; there’s a sinewy angularity to his melodic lines, a crisp astringency to his harmonies, that have only been hinted at before, while his ear for sonority, with a cimbalom adding an extra tang to the textures this time, is as sure as ever.”
“…an extraordinary work, containing some of Mr. Adams’s richest, most daring music. At this point in his career he has a masterly ability to write multi-textured scores where layers of music swirl and spin simultaneously, yet everything is audible. Though his language draws from recognizable inspirations, like big-band jazz, Bach, Copland, Ives, Ravel and more, his voice could not be more personal and fresh… an important new work.”
New York Times
“…the wounds of the scourging become almost physically perceptible while, above this, the Los Angeles Master Chorale flinches and fizzes. A furious station on the way to the death of Jesus. Alongside this grandly-conceived overpowering surge, a folksong-like simplicity is touching – as in the affecting conclusion of the work – and a lyrical sensuousness which is always alluded to when the three countertenors begin to speak.”
“…the most beautiful Passover scene in all of music…”
Los Angeles Times
Concert performances of The Gospel according to the Other Mary are hosted this summer by the Zaterdag Matinee series (a co-commissioner) at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (8 June) and at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago (7 September).
Adams’s new saxophone concerto for Timothy McAllister is premiered by the Sydney Symphony under the composer’s baton on 22 August, with US performances in Baltimore and St Louis this autumn and its Brazilian premiere in São Paulo in a future season.
> Further information on Work: The Gospel According to the Other Mary
Photo: Courtesy of Barbican/Keith Sheriff
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