The effect of those Depression-era programs can still be felt today, as Buffalo has a world-class orchestra that performs in a wonderful facility. Kleinhans Music Hall has incredible acoustics. That makes going to performances there sheer delight. My seat was upstairs in the balcony, and I had no trouble hearing this performance, thanks to these magnificent acoustics.
Outside, it was rainy and a bit windy. Rainy days in April are annoying, but they are signs that spring truly is unfolding. The ground is becoming softer, and the partially grown plants are being nourished by life-giving water.
Inside, this oratorio, which was composed in 2017, was dramatic, emotional, and very powerful. The oratorio chronicles the last days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is actually a musical adaptation of the passion gospel that is read in church on Palm Sunday. It is sung in two languages: Hebrew and English. Another thing that made this production unique is a duet sung by J’Nai Bridges as Mary (mother of Jesus) and Hila Plitmann as Miryam Magdala. In the program notes, conductor JoAnn Falletta describes this duet as the composer sharing a woman’s perspective “for the first time — both Mary the Mother of God and Mary Magdelene share their devotion and sorrow in a groundbreaking departure from tradition.”
Yesterday’s performance was the east coast premiere of “The Passion of Yeshua.” The combination of the soloists, the choruses, and the orchestra was incredible. The story was brought to life through the powerful performances of the soloists, the choruses, and the orchestra.
The massive chorus that acted as the crowd in the story was comprised of two groups: the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and the UCLA Chamber Singers. In addition to the chorus, a group of five singers played the main roles. In addition to J’Nai Bridges and Hila Plitmann, they were: Matthew Worth as Narrator/Talmuda, Kenneth Overton as Yeshua, Tomothy Fallon as Kefa (Peter)/Pilate, and UCLA Chamber Singers Director James Bass as Kayafa.
As I watched and listened, I experienced the gamut of emotions, which included fear, love, sadness, and loss. Throughout the production, I felt completely absorbed by the story that was being told on the stage. My own world was gone, replaced by the story that was unfolding before me. The performances felt very real, very raw, and completely alive. It was truly a spectacular piece of music and it was exciting to experience that music as a member of the audience.