- The Passion of Yeshua, oratorio for soloists, chorus & orchestra
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There's a good deal of background to Richard Danielpour's oratorio "The Passion of Yeshua," and it will provide fodder for discussion in the coming years in the fields of biblical exegesis and reception history. It is a telling of the Passion drawing on the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, whose words are used to dramatize the story. Some of the music is in Hebrew, some in English, and there are three sources for the English text: the Revised New Standard translation, the Complete Jewish Bible of Messianic Jewish theologian David Stern, and, at a climactic moment, the words of Danielpour himself, whose origins lie in Persian Judaism. The composer selected the texts, a project that entailed pondering and personal discovery over more than two decades. There is much to think about here, but for average listeners, the work is a fine example of Danielpour's popular operatic style, here transferred to a fairly conventional oratorio form with a narrator (baritone Matthew Worth), choruses, and soloists embodying the drama. The most distinctive aspect of the libretto for many will be not its Jewish elements, but the prominent roles given to Miryam Magdala (Mary Magdalene), sung by soprano Hilda Plitmann, and to Miryam (Mary), a major showcase for mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges. These two make an ideally contrasted pair, and the performances are uniformly strong. The conductor, JoAnn Falletta, has championed the work, and for this world premiere recordings brings it to her own Buffalo Philharmonic and is attuned to the score's dramatic ebb and flow. The likelihood is that listeners of various religious backgrounds will find this an engaging and absorbing new setting of the Passion.