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Bach: St. John Passion

Bach: St. John Passion

Bach: St. John Passion

Bach: St. John Passion

Fri, Mar 4 - Sun, Mar 6, 2016
  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  • Heinz Hall
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Bach's St. John Passion is a sacred oratorio using scripture from the Gospel of John. It was composed for the Good Friday Vespers in Leipzig in 1724 and here, Manfred Honeck will offer a semi-staged representation of this profound work. With the assistance of stage director Sam Helfrich, guest vocalists and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Symphony and their music director will showcase this work and its testimony to the power of music to transcend time and place.


Manfred Honeck, conductor
Sam Helfrich, director
Martin Lattke, tenor (Evangelist)
Paul Armin Edelmann, bass (Jesus)
Sunhae Im, soprano
Andrey Nemzer, countertenor
Thomas Cooley, tenor
Lucas Meachem, baritone
Alexander Elliott, pilatus
Jeffrey Klefstad, petrus
Amelia D'Arcy, ancilla
Jonathan MacDonald, servus
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
    Maria Sensi Sellner, acting music director


Bach: St. John Passion, BWV 245 (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premiere)

View Program Notes

Note from the Stage Director

Bach’s St. John Passion is a work both extraordinarily beautiful and shockingly violent; the story of Christ’s last days is filled with moments of revelation, love and harmony, and also vindictiveness, terror and hideous cruelty. Musically, these vastly different aspects of the story are somehow made harmonious, even essential, through a series of contemplative choral moments and solo arias by which we, the audience, are called upon to contemplate our own strengths and weaknesses and to see for ourselves how our own choices hold up under the scrutiny provided by the story of a man whose final days might be viewed as an exemplary, and utterly human, moment of moral reserve and psychological triumph. 

In this production, my hope is to present the Passion against a backdrop of images from our daily lives: familiar, almost banal moments of daily reality, acts of love and selfishness, anguish and joy, of choices made, for better or worse, of the promise of a better life through technology and endless goods and services, and also of misery, routine violence and nonstop fear of “the other.” In developing this production, I found myself inspired by Bach’s St. John Passion to think deeply about my own life and personal choices. The piece seems to conclude with the provocative notion that there is no “us” and “them,” but rather a complicated, sometimes beautiful, sometimes savage, fabric of individuals and groups called humanity, from which emerges equal parts love, compassion, courage, hatred, anger and a thousand other emotions and actions. I hope others may find opportunities for reflection as well; to feel caught up in both the Passion itself, and in that wonderful spell that music and drama can cast upon us.

—Sam Helfrich

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Run Time: This concert will run approximately 2 hours 20 minutes.


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