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JohannespassioncropFollowing his 2011 production of Haydn’s The Creation, director and conductor Christoph Hagel has returned to the Berlin Cathedral during this year’s Lent and Holy Week to stage Bach’s St. John Passion (BWV 245). In addition to combining theatre with intense spiritual contemplation and contemporary dance with cinematic elements, Hagel is harnessing the spatial effect of the entire cathedral to heighten the depiction of the final days in the life of Jesus.

The St. John Passion is not opera director Hagel’s first attempt to stage Bach’s music. With his world tour of Flying Bach, he has already redefined the boundary between high culture and youth culture. This production is his attempt to make the passion of Jesus of Nazareth accessible to the entire population of twenty-first century Berlin.

Nearly one hundred performers from twelve countries are involved in the production. The large corps de ballet is responsible for the dramatic crowd scenes, while the solo dancers have been given the opportunity to represent the musical and theological content of the contemplative arias. Much of the choreography is by Buczko Martin, a solo dancer at the Berlin State Ballet, and Bach’s score is being performed by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus.

Berliner Dom und die Staatliche Ballettschule zu Berlin