Apollo's Fire presents Bach's St. John Passion: Jeffrey Strauss

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Jeannette Sorrell leads Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra and a world-class cast of soloists in a dramatic presentation of  J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion. Following four local performances in Bath, Shaker Heights, Cleveland, and Rocky River (March 3-6), Apollo’s Fire will bring its acclaimed interpretation to New York City and other venues in the Northeast and Midwest.

A product of Bach’s deep religious beliefs, the dramatic saga transcends time and theology to touch the listener regardless of religion. From the tumultuous and agitated opening, to the introspective and deeply moving aria Es ist vollbracht, the St. John Passion shows Bach at his most daring and operatic in this epic story of hope and redemption.

The leading baroque singers on the international scene today - Nicholas Phan (Evangelist), Jesse Blumberg (Jesus), Jeffrey Strauss (Pilate), Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Terry Wey (countertenor), and Christian Immler (baritone) - join Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire for this special project, which includes a tour as well as recording and filming sessions for a new CD/DVD (slated for international release next year on British label AVIE). The DVD is being filmed at Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral.

Bursting out of the gates from the agitated opening chorus, this is Bach’s most dramatic and theatrical oratorio. In Jeannette Sorrell’s acclaimed interpretation, true singer-actors perform the character roles from memory. The renowned Apollo’s Singers evoke the wild mob with fierce intensity and bring heartfelt devotion to Bach’s famous chorales (hymn-tunes such as “O Sacred Head now wounded”). The period instruments of Apollo’s Fire perform Bach’s contrapuntal score with sensitivity and nuance.

The production is slightly staged to make use of dramatic architectural spaces in the church venues. The text is sung in German with English translations provided, including projected supertitles at most venues.

Sorrell, who has earned a national/international reputation for her compelling interpretations of Bach, said she views the St John Passion production as “the highlight of our season.” She said, “Because of recording it for international CD release, we’ve assembled the finest international cast of singer-actors that I could dream of. It’s going to be a memorable project for us – a once-in-a-decade undertaking.”

Thursday, March 3, 7:30pm 
The Bath Church (UCC)

Friday, March 4, 8:00pm
First Baptist Church, Shaker Heights

Saturday, March 5, 8:00pm
Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland

Sunday, March 6, 4:00pm
St. Christopher Church, Rocky River

Jeffrey Strauss, baritone (Pilate), an “authoritative artist” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) whose performances have been praised as “captivating” (Chicago Tribune) and “serenely beautiful” (New York Times), has appeared with period-instrument ensembles including The Consort of Musicke with Emma Kirkby, the Taverner Consort under Andrew Parrott, Tafelmusik, Apollo’s Fire, the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), the Newberry Consort (Chicago), Seattle Baroque, and Tempesta di Mare (Philadelphia). He made his professional debut at the age of 17 with the Buffalo Philharmonic and studied voice in Paris with Gérard Souzay. An accomplished stage actor, his favorite projects have included the title role in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Jesus in the Bach Passions, Méphistophélès in Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust, and Apollo in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne.  His recent portrayal of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof was hailed by the Buffalo News as “masterful.”  His longstanding commitment to contemporary music includes many appearances with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, as well as performing Ned Rorem’s song cycle Aftermath, a jazz-inspired oratorio with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and premieres of works by Bernstein, Babbitt, Shapey, and Cipullo. His CD recordings with Apollo’s Fire include the Monteverdi Vespers and Handel’s Messiah, as well as Sephardic Journey, released in February 2016.

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