The Passion

Stage Direction & Design

Opera? | St John’s Passion

First Staging in Portuguese

Music > J.S.Bach | Translation > Nuno Marques | Stage Director, Set & Costumes Designer > Pedro Ribeiro | Conductor > Vitor Matos | Soprano > Leonor Barbosa de Melo | Alto > Patricia Silveira | Tenor > Joao Terleira | Bass-baritone > Andre Henriques | Bass > Job Tome | Chorus > Ensemble Vocal Pro Musica & Academia de Musica Valentim Moreira de Sa | Dancers > Daniela Castro & Max Oliveira | Actors > Os Quatro Ventos Theatre Company | Video > Alexandra Corte Real de Almeida | Lighting > Rui Maia | Centro Cultural Vila Flor | Guimaraes, PTG

> Director’s Note

Bach’s music and Christ’s story live on today in part because they can still associate themselves with our contemporary needs. In a theatre, we don’t wish to evangelize the audience into Catholic devotion. But from Christ’s story, we can take the metaphoric juice that makes us think about who we are and the acts we force upon each other. We staged the actions of Jesus’ last hours in a way that they could be reinterpreted by our eyes today in actions that are part of our own society. We were not interested in knowing who was to blame, but only to observe our capacity of destruction and redemption.

For five years now I have lived in a city that unites people from all over the world. All in pursuit of a personal dream. Sometimes I teach in schools where teenagers from different ethnic backgrounds are brought together, all dragged in by their parents in pursuit of “the dream”. This search can destroy families. Daily I witness so much anger in their eyes. With personalities build in their parent’s absence, on television, on fear, on apps, on lack of care, on aggressiveness, and they will be the future. The human capacity for destruction is so present and close to us that it has become random, normal, ignored. We are all so connected thanks to technology that we forget the air that binds us, the look, the real talk, the touch, the real smile without the yellow icon. When I designed this project to be presented in Portugal I realized that there we still have something that some days joins us together has a family and in respect – the table. The rule at my place has always been: “at the table, we are in a family”. Thank you to the person that one day told me that.

On translating

Translating a musical work into another language is always a delicate operation and like surgeons using tweezers we tried to keep the text as close to the original as possible – the gospel or the other non-biblical sources used by Bach. The idea was to make the general audience, that doesn’t understand German, to come closer to a work that lives from music, but also from the word. This was a never-ending work and until the last minute we were never one hundred percent pleased with it, and I think we never will. We think it was a first step in acknowledging that in Portugal there is space for translation of works of this nature and that the general audience craves for it. The intention was never to replace but to create an option.


The premiere of the Portuguese version of Bach’s St John Passion enraptured the audience of Guimaraes. Guimaraes had the premiere of the first Portuguese staging in Portuguese of Bach’s “St John Passion”. The iconic piece from J.S.Bach was reinterpreted, last night, in Centro Cultural de Vila Flor, in a superb show within the Religious Music Festival with stage direction of Pedro Ribeiro and conducted by Vitor Matos (…) the audience surrendered completely to the multifaceted spectacle, which had on stage more than a hundred artists and the performance of Guimaraes Orchestra (…)

> P.Peixoto | (more in Miscellaneous/Press and Interviews)

© Images by Paulo Peixoto & Ricardo Meireles 2016