In all probability, the St John’s Passion by Alessandro Scarlatti is the very first piece of this genre, written in Italy. This Passion dates from the last years of the XVIIth century, when Scarlatti was Maestro di Cappella at the court of Naples.
The text is entirely drawn from the Gospel of St John, so the passion appears as a work of strictly religious character, where the recitativo is predominant. But Alessandro Scarlatti, who was above all an opera and oratorio composer, uses this technique with an astonishing maestria.
The role of the evangelist, which is often highly expressive and moving, is written for a mezzo-soprano, and was evidently meant for a castrato. The style of the recitativo accompagnato, which became characteristic for the Neapolitan opera at that time, is also used, for some recits of the evangelist (such as the introduction), but above all for all the interventions of Christ (bass), giving these interventions a most particular aura.
The role of the choir is limited to the “turbae” (masses). All the other roles (Pilatus, Ancilla, Petrus) are given to choir soloists.
The Passion ends on a recitativo accompagnato by the evangelist, on the very last verse of the Gospel: “And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced”.
For this version, three Responsories for the Holy Week have been added, also by Alessandro Scarlatti. They appear here as meditations that serve as a conclusion at three moments of the story: the Arrest, the judgement of Pilate, and the Crucifixion.
Leonardo García Alarcón, direction and keyboards
Giuseppina Bridelli, soprano, Evangelist
Guerle Guenes, bass, Christ
Paulin Bündgen, Countertenor, Pilatus
Namur Chamber Choir (16 singers)
Cappella Mediterranea (15 Instrumentists)