Resonance Works Presents Bach's ST. JOHN PASSION

Resonance Works presents Bach's dramatic St. John Passion on Friday, March 22nd at 8 p.m. at Heinz Memorial Chapel in Oakland and Sunday, March 24th at 3 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair. A distinguished cast of vocal soloists join the Resonance Chamber Orchestra and Chorus conducted by founder and Artistic Director Maria Sensi Sellner.

Written in 1724 during his first year in Leipzig, Bach's setting of scripture and poetry is a deeply human and intensely dramatic musical telling of the betrayal, suffering, and death of Christ. The principal storyteller in the passions is the Evangelist. Noted Bach interpreter tenor Joseph Gaines (Metropolitan Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Opera), returns to Pittsburgh in this role, ten years after first performing this masterwork with Maria Sensi Sellner.

My job as the Evangelist is to help glue all the many moving musical parts of this masterpiece together, and to help propel the action forward. It's a huge challenge in partnership with the conductor, the orchestra, the chorus, and the other soloists kind of a narrator's high-wire act, requiring intense concentration and one that I relish immensely, says Gaines. His previous performances as the Evangelist have been praised for resilient soulfulness (Washington Post) and as vividly declaim[ing] the text taken from the Gospel According to St. John, us[ing] a wide palette of vocal colors to establish the right emotional tone for every moment. (Houston Chronicle)

Amidst the Evangelist's narration, the action of the story is brought to life by soloists in the roles of Jesus, Pilate, and other minor characters, as well as the turba chorus as the angry mob, groups of soldiers, disciples, and onlookers. Pennsylvania native baritone Joshua Jeremiah (Minnesota Opera, LA Opera) returns in the role of Pilate and aria soloist after his acclaimed performance as Ford in Resonance Works' 2017 production of Falstaff. Serbian baritone Ivan Plaza i will sing the role of Jesus.

Stepping outside of the action, Bach provides moments of emotional reflection and commentary on the drama through arias and chorales that draw on a number of textual sources. Resonance Works has assembled an impressive cast of aria soloists including Katy Williams (Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony), Christina English (Boston Baroque, Lorelei Ensemble), former Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Corrie Stallings, and emerging artists Thespina Christulides, George Milosh, and William Ottow. These soloists will also perform as a part of the small chamber chorus, creating a powerfully direct and uniquely intimate performance of this masterwork.

This is a work that we have wanted to present for several years, and the stars finally aligned, says Artistic & General Director Maria Sensi Sellner. It's the major work that I have had the longest relationship with as a conductor. Sellner conducted portions of the piece in lecture concerts at the Oregon Bach Festival as a part of the conducting masterclass with conductor, pedagogue, and Bach scholar Helmuth Rilling. She self-produced and conducted performances in Pittsburgh in 2009, and in 2016 prepared the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for a staged production with the Pittsburgh Symphony hailed as rich, bold.

If Bach had written an opera, this would be it, says Gaines. Even if you don't speak a lick of German, the raw, irresistible drama of a work like this draws you inexorably in. And in a top-notch performance, the audience should themselves on some level feel like participants in the story which is what the Passions were originally all about.

Resonance Works offers zone seating at Heinz Chapel and Westminster Presbyterian Church, with tickets starting at just $25. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and groups. To purchase tickets, please visit or call (412) 501-3330.


About Resonance Works | Pittsburgh

Resonance Works is a multi-modal, artist-led performing arts company that showcases an orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, chamber musicians, staged opera, and musical theater often on the same program. Featuring a repertoire that is championed by its artists and themes that resonate with the current climate, Resonance Works connects the arts to today's audience. Drawing on the diverse genres of classical music makes Resonance Works unique in Pittsburgh. The company becomes whatever it needs to be - orchestra, opera company, choir, new music ensemble, and more - to enrich the community by bringing unique and meaningful musical experiences to a variety of neighborhoods and audiences. Founded in 2013, the company has quickly become an important part of the professional arts ecosystem in Pittsburgh, and is committed to maintaining a rich and vibrant community of professional musicians in the region. Their unique programming model has also led to numerous artistic partnerships in dance, theatre, photography, and visual art, as well as partnerships with a number of community organizations.


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