Interview about the Passion in Il Bicerin

As I have mentioned here before, Sarie and Alberto have been involved for over a year in producing a Passion oratorio that Alberto composed. Now the time for the performances has finally arrived. The concerts will be held tomorrow evening at 9:00 pm and Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm.

Meanwhile, a local review, Il Bicerin, has written up the project in an interview with Alberto. I shared the article on Facebook, but since more than half of my Facebook friends are English-speakers, the article is in Italian, and a Facebook post is way too short for a translation, I thought I’d put it here instead.

With my apologies to Mr. Gunetti, my translation has taken the liberty of adjusting the formal Italian style a little, so that it reads more like American journalism.

At 22 years old, he writes a Baroque oratorio on The Passion of Christ: An homage to the Shroud of Turin

 The Passion According to St. John is a sacred oratorio for solo, choir and orchestra.

DSC_0204 - Version 2By Andrea Gunetti

Alberto Mattea, probably one of the most multifaceted young artists in Italy (he plays Baroque oboe, composes music and directs films), has composed a musical homage to the Shroud of Turin. It’s a Baroque Passion, like Bach would have written, based on a libretto by Giorgio Enrico Cavallo and taken from the Gospel of John. Two performances of this new sacred oratorio will take place at 9:00pm this Saturday evening and 4:00pm Sunday afternoon.

How did you get the idea to write something as anachronistic as a Baroque Oratorio today?

The project began when the librettist and I were talking and we realized that the Exposition of the Shroud would be the perfect occasion to write something momentous. If the idea seems anachronistic, consider that the Passion is simply the central element in the Catholic Easter liturgy, put to music. It’s true, however, that Passions are rarely composed today, and they are usually heard outside their original sacred context.

How is it structured?

The Baroque Oratorio is traditionally divided into cori, recitativi, arias, and chorales. The text is sung by John the Evangelist (a tenor) who speaks with Christ (a bass), Pilate (a tenor) and the women (sopranos). The arias are reflections on the Passion as sung by Christ, Pilate, Mary Magdalen, and a penitent soul (a countertenor), who contemplate the redemptive suffering of Jesus. The cori and chorales internalize the message of the Evangelist.

It’s interesting that your Passion also includes the Resurrection, but Bach’s don’t. Why is that?

According to Bach’s Protestant vision, the Passion and the Cross represented Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as the central point of salvation. One also has to consider that Bach’s Passions were meant to be played on Good Friday, a moment of suspension in time during which one contemplates the death of Christ. Speaking of the Resurrection in this context would be out of place. We usually don’t notice this because we listen to the Bach Passions as concert pieces. But in our case, since Easter has already taken place, there’s no reason not to celebrate the Resurrection in music.

These are serious ideas. Do you think the public will appreciate them?

Any artwork, including this one, will receive both appreciation and criticism. Some of this will be objective and some will be according to personal taste, which of course varies. Bach was in his 40s and already a master when he composed his Passions, and I’m only 22. That’s a crushing, unreachable comparison. But the point is this: Our Passion was not intended to be a measuring stick. The main point isn’t how it’s carried out, but instead it’s meant to be personal homage to and meditation on the Man of the Cross.


Bravo, Alberto! I’m so looking forward to hearing the Passion performed this weekend!


3 thoughts on “Interview about the Passion in Il Bicerin

  1. Thank you for translating this for us. We are so proud of Alberto! I do hope it will be recorded for all of us who wish we could be there. Wonderful interview.

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