“Rejoice, exult” – Infectiously joyful and exciting !
The Christmas Oratorio’s first three parts, designed for the first three days of Christmas, are about the Christmas Story’s core: the particulars of the child’s birth and the appearance of the angels to the shepherds on the field. Likewise, based on the narrative of the evangelists Luke and Matthew, are the second half’s three parts (IV-VI): the child’s circumcision on New Year’s Day, his adoration by the three wise men and finally his persecution by Herod.
When Bach’s Christmas Oratorio opens with the words “Rejoice, exult” one surrenders willingly to the sensation of floating. The rousing joy of this chorus and its unquestioning optimism seem boundless. According to John Neumeier, the opening chorus of the six-part oratorio “projects a relentlessly rushing joy – not yet aware of original sin”. The chorus sings of hope, not of an already fulfilled redemption.
Neumeier adds: “Salvation is not a forgone conclusion, but is rather something that needs to be constantly earned and prepared for. As soon as the music of the ‘Rejoice’ chorus begins – and this is the wonderful thing about Bach’s music – a flame inside us ignites, lighting up the irresistible feeling of joy. When the music ends, silence reigns again and we return to our own life on earth”.
Bach’s work commemorates the incarnation of Christ, with details of Jesus’ birth taken from the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The mother, the father and the child, the shepherd and the angels, the wise men from the East, King Herod, a constantly migrating group of people, and a man protecting a little Christmas tree form an outer circle of characters that lead us deeper into the more fundamental, human questions of trust, reliance, faith, doubt and dedication. The biblical story becomes a story for us all.
FROM THE HAMBURG STATE OPERA
John Neumeier, choreography, costumes & lighting concept
Johann Sebastian Bach
Christmas Oratorio , BWV 248 (1734)
Allesandro De Marchi, conductor
Eberhard Friedrich, chorus master
Julian Prégardien, evangelist
Melissa Petit, soprano
Katja Pieweck, alto
Manuel Günther, tenor
Wilhelm Schwinghammer, bass
Lloyd Riggins, A Man
Anna Laudere, The Mother
Edvin Revazov, Her Husband
Carsten Jung, A Shepherd
Silvia Azzoni, angel
Alexandr Trusch, Angel
Dario Fanconi, The King
Marc Jubete, Sasha Riva, Stuhrmann, The Three Wise Men
Leslie Heylmann, Lennart Radtke, Yuki Oishi, Silvano Ballone
Ferdinand Wögerbauer, set design