To culminate its 30th Anniversary Season, Princeton Pro Musica** will present J.S. Bach’s dramatic St. John Passion on Sunday, April 19, at 3 p.m., at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium. Frances Fowler Slade, Founder and Music Director, will conduct chorus, orchestra, and seven outstanding soloists.
The great Bach Passion compositions—the St. John and the St. Matthew survive—are the closest opportunities Bach had to write operas. The tradition of singing the story of Jesus’s last days, according to the Gospels, began in the middle ages. By the time Bach wrote the St. John (1724), the Biblical accounts were augmented by solo arias, and Lutheran hymns, sung by the congregation.
Frances Slade commented, “I literally grew up with the St. Matthew Passion, but have never performed the St. John before. It is tremendously powerful, and it has some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever experienced. I’m so glad we’re finally doing it!”
Robert Petillo will sing the demanding Evangelist role, for which he is acclaimed. Petillo has based his career in Washington D.C., where he has performed with the Washington Bach Consort, the Cathedral Choral Society, and the Folger consort, among many others.
Elem Eley, who will sing the part of Jesus, has been a frequent soloist with Princeton Pro Musica. On the voice faculty of Westminster Choir College, Eley enjoys a remarkably varied career, from opera, oratorio, and recital, to premieres of contemporary music. A frequent presence on the stage of Carnegie Hall, he recently appeared there with David Randolph and the St. Cecilia Chorus.
The dramatic role of Pilate will be sung bass-baritone William Walker, who has performed frequently with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He made his Carnegie Hall debut singing the Mozart Requiem under Joseph Flummerflet.
The aria soloists are Mary Ellen Callahan, soprano; Alyson Harvey, contralto; Tony Boutte’, tenor; and Dennis Blackwell, bass.
Mary Ellen Callahan is a frequent soloist with the American Bach Soloists of San Francisco, and the Washing ton Bach Consort. She recently performed the Bach B minor Mass in Kennedy Center. In Carnegie Hall, she has performed the Bach Christmas Oratorio, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, and a solo recital in Weill Hall to a sold-out house.
Alyson Harvey has appeared with Tempesta di Mare, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, The Berkshire Bach Society, and The Philadelphia Singers. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Masterwork Chorus of NJ, and appeared with them again in their 50th Anniversary concert of the Bach B minor Mass.
Tony Boutté made his professional operatic debut as Orfeo in the groundbreaking Monteverdi Cycle produced by Skylight Opera of Milwaukee. He has specialized in Baroque music, performing with Concert Royal, the Washington Bach Consort, Les Arts Florissants, Boston Baroque, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Dennis Blackwell has appeared with the New York City Opera and the Caramoor Opera. He has sung with the American University Symphony Orchestra, the Stonewall Chorale, Musica Antiqua New York, and Bach Works. He has performed in the recital series of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at Citicorp Center and St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York.
Princeton Pro Musica will present a symposium about the St. John Passion at Stonebridge at Montgomery, on Wednesday April 15, at 7:30 p.m. The panelists will include Michael Marissen, from Swarthmore College; Wendy Heller, from Princeton University; and J. Ross Wagner, from Princeton Theological Seminary. The symposium is free.
Tickets for the April 19 performance range from $25-$45, and $10 for students. For tickets and more information, call 609-683-5122 or visit www.princetonpromusica.org.
Princeton Pro Musica is funded in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State.
**The Princeton Pro Musica is a member of the Guild for Early Music.