The Greek Passion (opera)

The Greek Passion (opera)

"The Greek Passion" (Czech "Řecké pašije") is an opera in four acts by Bohuslav Martinů. The libretto, by the composer, is based on the novel "The Greek Passion" (or "Christ Recrucified") by Nikos Kazantzakis. The opera exists in two versions. Martinů wrote the original version from 1954 to 1957. He offered this original version of the opera in 1957 to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where the music director, Rafael Kubelík, and the general administrator, John Webster, had approved the score for production. However, following intervention by Sir Arthur Bliss, the company then demurred on the production and did not stage the work at the time. [Martin Anderson, "ROH, Covent Garden: Martinů's "The Greek Passion". "Tempo", 213, pp. 48-49 (2000).]

The composer then produced a second version of the opera, which received its first performance at the Städtisches Theater, Zürich in 1961, after Martinů's death in 1959. The second version received its first UK production at Welsh National Opera in April 1981, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. [Malcolm Boyd, Review of recording of "The Greek Passion". "Musical Times", 23(1670), p. 265 (1982).] The first US production was in 1981, at the Metropolitan Opera, in a production by the Indiana University School of Music. [ [ Peter G. Davis, "The Greek Passion" - A Composer in Search of an Epic Tragedy". "New York Times", 26 April 1981.] ] However, the first version was later restored under the supervision of Aleš Březina. The restored version was produced at Covent Garden in April 2000. This version received its Czech Republic premiere in January 2005. [ [ Rosie Johnson, "Out of the archives and onto the stage: Martinu's 'Greek Passion' revived". "Czech Radio" on-line article, 28 January 2005.] ]



The setting is Lykovrissi, a Greek village, where a performance of the Passion Play is scheduled to occur around Easter. As the story proceeds, the villagers cast in the play take on the personalities of their religious characters.

"Act I"
For the upcoming performance of the Passion Play, the priest Grigoris distributes the roles. The shepherd Manolios is selected to act the part of Christ. Katerina, a widow, is chosen to play Mary Magdalene. Panait, her squire, is given the role of Judas. The villagers think of their respective roles and about how they correspond to their lives. At dusk, a group of refugees arrives in Lykovrissi from a village destroyed by the Turks. Another priest, Fotis, leads the refugees. Father Grigoris is concerned about the welfare and safety of his fellow villagers and of possible conflicts. One female refugee dies from hunger, but Father Grigoris blames the death on cholera. He then expels the refugees. Katerina offers them assistance, and Manolios shows them the nearby mountain where the refugees may rest.

"Act II"
Katerina has fallen in love with Manolios. Ladas wants to relieve the refugees of their possessions. He does so and turns over their fortune to Yannakos. However, on seeing the misery of the refugees, he returns their money.

"Act III"
Manolios has begun to take on the personality of Jesus Christ. Manolios convinces Katerina that their love must be only spiritual, in the same manner as Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Manolios appeals to the villagers to help the refugees, but the elders refuse. Manolios is gaining a greater spiritual hold over the villagers, and the village elders devise a plan to stop Manolios.

"Act IV"
At a wedding in the village. Father Grigoris excommunicates Manolios. Manolios defends his actions as being based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The refugees come down from the mountain in a state of misery. In a subsequent dispute, Panait kills Manolios. The villagers and the refugees mourn Manolios. The refugees then leave the village, in search of a new home.


* Supraphon 1116 3611/2: John Mitchinson, John Tomlinson, Helen Field; Czech Philharmonic Chorus; Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor
* Koch Schwann 3-6590-2: Adrian Clarke, Eric Garrett, Esa Ruuttunen, Greg Ryerson, Richard Angas; Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Ulf Schirmer, conductor



"Greek Passion, The" by Jan Smaczny, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7

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