Show artwork for St. Matthew Passion

St. Matthew Passion St. Matthew Passion

Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach

Conducted by James Conlon

March 1227, 2022

Company premiere

At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Legendary choreographer John Neumeier stages Bach's monumental sacred masterpiece, featuring the extraordinary dancers of the Hamburg Ballet.

Awe-inspiring in its complexity, universal in its appeal, Bach's St. Matthew Passion is considered by many to be the single greatest masterpiece of western sacred music, a profoundly moving depiction of the final days of the life of Jesus. John Neumeier, the celebrated choreographer who made his LAO debut with Orpheus and Eurydice in 2018, returns to Los Angeles with one of his signature creations, a ballet that has been cheered by audiences throughout the world.

Marrying the powerful music and narrative with dance in complete harmony, Neumeier fills the stage with unforgettable movement and images. The extraordinary dancers of the Hamburg Ballet join forces with James Conlon, a team of brilliant vocal soloists (including Susan Graham), and LA Opera's formidable orchestra and chorus for a spellbinding, deeply meaningful performance you'll never forget.

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"Some of the most profound drama by this most profound of composers... a spectacle of ceaseless, rich imagery and movement."

Mark SwedLos Angeles Times

Pre-Show Talk 
Arrive early to watch the pre-recorded talk by James Conlon. The talk will be screened on large outdoor monitors on the Music Center Plaza for audiences to enjoy, beginning one hour before the opera. 

Singers and Dancers

The Evangelist
Joshua Blue
Michael Sumuel
Tamara Wilson
Susan Graham
Ben Bliss
Kristinn Sigmundsson
Baritone (3/20)
Michael J. Hawk
Baritone (3/23-27)
James Martin Schaefer
Hamburg Ballet

Creative Team

James Conlon
Choreography, Staging, Design
John Neumeier
Chorus Director
Grant Gershon
Children's Chorus Director
Fernando Malvar-Ruiz

Read the synopsis

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The St. Matthew Passion tells the story of the last two days in the life of Jesus. He is betrayed, tried, crucified and buried. Interspersed within the narrative sung by the Evangelist (tenor soloist), whose text is drawn from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, arias, choruses and chorales offer commentary on the action that the Evangelist describes.

Part I:
An opening chorus of lamentation is interwoven with a chorale: O Lamb of God

Two days before Passover, Jesus tells his disciples that He will be crucified.
Chorale: Jesus, most dear to my heart

The high priest Caiaphas calls a council to discuss arresting and executing Jesus; they ask him not to do so during the festival, to avoid inciting the people to riot. In Bethany, a woman anoints Jesus' head with precious ointment, an action the disciples find wasteful. Jesus responds that the woman's kindness, in anticipation of His entombment, will be remembered forever.
Alto aria: Penance and remorse

The disciple Judas bargains with the high priests to betray Jesus; they offer him 30 pieces of silver as a reward.
Soprano aria: Bleed now, loving heart

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray Him.
Chorale: I am the one, I should pay for this

Jesus identifies Judas as the one who will betray Him. He breaks bread and passes the cup of wine.
Soprano aria: Although my heart swims in tears

Jesus and the disciples go to the Mount of Olives.
Chorale: Recognize me, my guardian

Jesus tells the disciples that they will all be scattered that evening. At Peter's protests, Jesus responds that Peter will deny Him three times before the cock crows the next morning.
Chorale: I shall stand here beside you

Jesus and the disciples go to Gethsemane. Jesus goes to pray, taking Peter and two others to keep watch.
Tenor aria: I shall keep watch by my Jesus

Jesus prays: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
Bass aria: Willingly I shall bring myself

Jesus finds the watchers sleeping and reproaches them. He prays once more.
Chorale: May what my God wills happen always

Jesus sees that the watchers are asleep again. He prays a third time. Jesus returns to the disciples. Judas approaches with armed men, having arranged to identify Jesus to them with a kiss. Jesus is arrested.
Soprano and alto duet: So my Jesus is now captured

Jesus orders the disciples to put their swords down. The disciples flee.
Chorale: O man, bewail your great sin

Part Two
Alto aria: Ah, now has my Jesus gone

Jesus is led to Caiaphas. Peter watches from a distance as Caiaphas asks witnesses to speak up so that Jesus might be put to death.
Chorale: I have been judged deceitfully by the world

False witnesses speak out against Jesus, who remains silent.
Tenor aria: Patience, even if false tongues stab me

When Caiaphas asks Jesus if He is the Messiah, the son of God, Jesus replies that He did not say so Himself, adding: "From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Jesus is sentenced to death for blasphemy; the crowd spits on Him and strikes Him.
Chorale: Who has struck you in this way

Peter is identified as a follower of Jesus three times; each time, Peter denies it. When he hears the cock crow, Peter is reminded of Jesus' prediction. He weeps bitterly.
Alto aria: Have mercy
Chorale: Although I have strayed from you

The next morning, Jesus is handed over to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Full of remorse, Judas tries to return the silver to the priests. Judas hangs himself. 
Bass aria: Give me back my Jesus

At the trial, Jesus does not answer when asked if He is the Messiah.
Chorale: Commend your way

Pilate, who traditionally releases a prisoner during the festival, gives the people a choice between Jesus or the criminal Barabbas. Persuaded by the priests, the people choose to save Barabbas and demand that Jesus be crucified.
Chorale: How amazing is this punishment

Pilate asks the crowd what sins Jesus has committed.
Soprano aria: Out of love, my savior is willing to die

They merely cry out that Jesus be crucified. Pilate washes his hands, saying that he bears no responsibility for Jesus' fate. Barabbas is released; Jesus is scourged and handed over to be crucified.
Alto aria: If the tears on my cheeks can achieve nothing

Soldiers strip Jesus, crown Him with thorns, and mock him as "king of the Jews."
Chorale: O head full of blood and wounds

Jesus is led to be crucified; a Cyrene named Simon is forced to carry the cross.
Bass aria: Come, sweet cross, this is what I will say

At Golgotha, Jesus is hung on a cross along with two murderers. He is reviled by the crowd and the murderers.
Alto aria: See, Jesus had stretched out his hands to embrace us

Darkness falls on the land. Jesus cries out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He dies.
Chorale: When I one day must depart from here

The veil in the temple is torn. An earthquake breaks the land apart. The soldiers guarding the cross realize that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus.
Bass aria: Make yourself pure, my heart

Joseph lays the body in a tomb, sealing it with a large stone. Women watch over the tomb. The priests also stand guard, remembering that Jesus said He would rise from the dead in three days.
Chorus: We sit down with tears

The running time is approximately three hours and 55 minutes, including one 25 minute intermission.

Sung in German with English subtitles.

Click here for the digital program.

Read James Conlon's essay on St. Matthew Passion here.

Production new to Los Angeles. Production from the Hamburg Ballet.

Production made possible with generous support from 
GRoW @ Annenberg 
David and Linda Shaheen 
Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer 

With special appreciation to Gregory and Régina Annenberg Weingarten 

Susan Graham’s appearance made possible by generous support from The Eva and Marc Stern Principal Artists Fund 

Special support for the LA Opera Chorus from the National Endowment for the Arts 

LA Opera Orchestra generously underwritten by Terri and Jerry Kohl    

A Classical KUSC Partner Show

Artwork for St. Matthew Passion
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2021/22 Season