St Matthew Passion

Stories from our innermost
Folkoperan, Stockholm

Premier 26th March 2014
Until 20th April 2014

Directed in a new concept by Joshua Sofaer
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
Swedish Libretto by Magnus Lindman
Musical Leader, Maria Lindal

Bach wrote St Matthew Passion in 1727 when he was cantor at St Thomas church in Leipzig. His intention was to create a plain speaking, easy to understand work, which moved worshippers to a reverential state as part of the church service. It was of key importance that it should be performed in German – the language of the people – as opposed to the Latin that was normally used for sacred works. Bach placed greater importance on the accurate presentation of meaning than on aesthetics. He wanted his audience to understand.

In current productions, even when performed in churches, the emphasis is on musical entertainment, especially for non-German speaking audiences.

Folkoperan’s St Matthew Passion looks back towards Bach’s original intentions at the same time as moving meaning forward to have relevance to contemporary secular society, as well as those with religious belief. The story of the cruelty, suffering, forgiveness and salvation that is told in the Passion, is ultimately one of how we as humans, treat and relate to each other. By telling our personal stories we share our burden, and at the same time we allow others to take strength from our experience.

In this production the recitative which carries the biblical text has been replaced by filmed interviews that are projected on a screen which covers the wall behind the stage. In the interviews, singers and musicians share personal stories which concern the big themes of the passion: forgiveness, guilt, pain, fear, loneliness, and love.

The staging is kept simple, with the ensemble, including the orchestra, on stage all the time. As one body of people, they act as collective witnesses, with soloists emerging from the amongst them in a series of tableaux.

Flautist Åsa Karlberg talks of how she was overcome by feelings of guilt for letting her son down. The forgiveness that he offered her has strengthened their relationship. “It could have been something that dogged me for life, that I could be accused of all my life. But he chose not to do that.”

Amanda Dahl is an alto with the Hägerstens Youth Choir. As part of her formal education she went on a study trip to Uganda. What she discovered there filled her with guilt at her own privilege and a desire to effect change. She was however paralysed by the idea that she was only acting to appease her own sense of guilt. “You get so scared of doing wrong that you end up doing nothing.”

Alto Janna Vettergren had longed for a child. After years of trying naturally she and her partner decided on a course of IVF and after several cycles, eventually conceived. As Janna tells us her story we watch the last moments of her pregnancy in the maternity unit and the birth of her son.

Katarina Henryson is one of the founder members of The Real Group. She shares the story of her fear when she thought that her young son would die and the difficulty she had in trying to make sense of what was happening. “You try to find an explanation. And there isn’t one.”

Baritone Morten Vinther tells of how he stepped from studying a cappella singing in Copenhagen straight into his ideal job as a member of The Real Group. What he discovered is that the this new life also meant sacrificing being close to the people he loved most and that he was stuck in the loneliness of the “artist cliché”.

Soprano Hannah Holgersson reveals the issues she has had with ‘control’ since adolescence and what happened when she felt her world was falling apart. Ultimately her story is that of the love and support from her partner. “In some way it’s an encouragement to have the courage to be vulnerable and exposed to someone because that’s where the truest human interactions occur.”

Lights, Bengt Gomér
Sound, Jan Apelholm
Choir Master, Christoffer Holgersson

Soloists: Conny Thimander, Hannah Holgersson, Janna Vettergren, Lars Arvidson.

The Real Group: Anders Edenroth, Anders Jalkéus, Emma Nilsdotter, Katarina Henryson, Morten Vinther

Adolf Fredriks Church Youth Choir (Choir Master, Christoffer Holgersson)
Hägerstens Youth Choir (Choir Master, Kerstin Börjeson)

Orchestra Rebaroque: Violin I – Maria Lindal, Violin II – Anders Åkered, Viola – Joel Sundin, Cello – Magdalena Mårding, Gamba – Daniel Holst, Double Bass – Jonas Dominique / Danijel Petrovic, Flute I – Åsa Karlberg, Flute II – Anja Sköld, Oboe I – Kennet Bohman, Oboe II – Bertil Färnlöf, Bassoon – Mats Klingfors, Lute – Karl Nyhlin, Organ – Peter Lönnerberg.

Assistant Directors: Alexander Niclasson, Charlotte Prag
Répétiteur: Magnus Sköld
Stage Manager: Matilda Molino Sanchez
Technical Producer: Mina Lundstedt
Technical Team: Jon-Terje Sundberg, Jim Larsén, Mats Andreasson, Lenah Bergstedt, Peter Ambróz
Set Manufacture: Svensk Dekorproduktion AB
Image Technology: Henrik Lago, Presentationsdesign
Audio: Johan Torstensson, Ljud Johan AB
Director of Photography: Leif Eiranson, Granitfilm
Birth Film: Han Arrhénborg
Interviewer: Martin Widman
Editor: Roger Brolén, Granitfilm
Interpretor: David Jones
Producer: Jonas Palerius
Assistant Producer: Mia Göthe
Orchestral Administration: Anders Gustavsson
Head of Marketing and PR: Elenor Wolgers
Marketing Assistants: Frida Edoff / Gunnel Ehrlich
Front of House Manager: Helena Jonsson
Finance Manager: Kristina Blomberg
Accountant: Lotta Lindström
Office Administrator: Janna Nolgård

Folkoperan Managing Director: Pia Kronqvist
Folkoperan Artistic Director: Mellika Melouani Melani
Folkoperan Musical Leader: Marit Strindlund

Press & Links

'...quite remarkable.'
Per Feltzin, Sveriges Radio

'It is as beautiful as it is radical.'
Hanna Höglund, Expressen

'Brave and deeply moving.'
Inger Alestig, Dagen

'The film sequences are deeply personal and all can surely find streaks of recognition in them. In this way Folkoperan's St Matthew Passion becomes a musical and cinematic sermon for the people of today.'
Michael Bruze, Norrköpings Tidningar

'With the Rebaroque ensemble, two youth choirs, The Real Group and four soloists dressed in street clothes placed casually on the stage, one is amazed straight away by the force of the opening choral “Look! Where? Where guilt resides!” the music projects acoustically as it never has in Folkoperan’s auditorium. And in the first filmed interview that follows, which deals precisely with guilt and forgiveness, there is an emotional edge that unrelentingly lacerates one’s heart. An emotional state that cries out for an equally painful probing aria or redeeming choral. When that is what comes, one knows that one is about to be incorporated into this magnificent work in a way never experienced before. What Folkoperan has achieved really is a Bach’s 'St. Matthew’s Passion' that is wide open.

With its radical reformulation of the work’s narrative for today, the Director Joshua Sofaer has also revealed Bach’s original intention. To get as near as possible to the sources of pain so that the situation when darkness becomes light can be conjured up. When oppression and burdens become lighter. In the filmed interviews we also become part of this process. How everything can transform. The sudden and inexplicable 'grace'. When in addition this acquires an exquisite vocal resonance from the participation of The Real Group, it is as if Bach’s path to Golgotha is being visited by the angelic choirboys from Mozart’s 'Magic Flute'. The triumph of harmony and pure and simple musical magic!

Of all the turning points in this performance it is probably the one about the expected baby that tears the audience apart and then heals them again. Just because it captures the miraculous transition from the most anguished screams to unbounded jubilation. The crown of thorns that turn into laurels. The victory of life over death.

Before it is time for the final chorale’s promise of rest and peace the moving account of daring to release control is forced upon us. The soprano’s “For Love My Jesus dies for me” is like a tightrope act above an abyss. An act of complete confidence in being caught if one falls.'
Martin Nyström, Dagens Nyheter