Argentine Premiere of Golijov’s St Mark Passion

ArgentinaArgentina  Golijov: La pasión según San Marcos: Soloists, Schola Cantorum de Venezuela,PassionOrchestra and Strings of the Orchestra of Teatro Colón, María Guinand (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 18.3.2012. (JSJ)

Direction: Osvaldo Golijov


Biella Da Costa (Jazz vocalist)
María Hinojosa Montenegro (Soprano)
Reynaldo González-Fernández (Singer and Afro-Cuban dancer)
Deraldo Ferreira (Capoeirista/Berimbau)

La pasión según San Marcos at Teatro Colón. (Photo Teatro Colón)

Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s La pasión según San Marcos (St Mark Passion) was the work of choice for the Teatro Colón to open its 2012 season. The local premiere of the work, it is closer to an oratorio than an opera and is presented staged, with some limited movement.

The work had its origin in 2000, when it was selected by Helmuth Rilling, director of the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart, as one of four passions from different parts of world to mark the 250th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach (the others being from Germany, Russia and China).

The text (in Spanish) is based on parts of St Mark’s gospel and fragments from the Psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, as well as Spanish poetry, and also includes a short Latin section and (as the ending) a Kaddish in Aramaic.

Golijov’s music is characterized by the skillful incorporation of traditional rhythms and in this work it is perhaps even more obvious than for example in his Ainadamar, which had its local premiere at La Plata’s Teatro Argentino last year. Its inspirations are primarily Cuba and the Bahia region of northern Brazil, with the salsa and bossa nova, but there are also other elements such as tango, flamenco, echoes of Stravinsky and Gregorian chant.

Similarly in the orchestra the percussion and guitar are prominent, with other instruments including trombones, trumpet, a hyper-accordion and strings.

The performers and players of this production have a long association with the work. Venezuelan María Guinand conducted the world premiere and has also been responsible for the two recordings, along with the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela choral group, of which she is artistic director, andthe 13 member PassionOrchestra led by Swedish percussionist Mikael Ringquist, here supplemented with strings from the Colón’s orchestra.

Not surprising then, that the production should be slickly and expressively performed, under Guinand’s assured hand. The chorus is large, in excess of 50, at times dividing into three groups and a few also have short solo roles. This is addition to the principals, here the Catalan soprano María Hinojosa Montenegro, who sang with brilliance and style, and the Venezuelan Biella Da Costa, who brought her dark Latin tone to the role of the jazz singer. Reynaldo González-Fernández is an Afro-Cuban singer and dancer, and Deraldo Ferreira an accomplished capoeirista and berimbau player, but the movement added little to the work as a whole.

On a final note this particular production (the last) was also historic in that it was the first from the Teatro Colón also to be transmitted live internationally online.

Jonathan Spencer Jones