MARCO FRISINA (b.1954): Passio Christi.
Catalogue Number: 06W060
Description: Well, this is rather remarkable. Frisina is a Catholic priest whose day job is as director of the Pastoral Worship Center at the Vatican. He is also a highly accomplished musician, with diplomas in piano, conducting and composition from the renowned Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome. He has written a very sizable body of music, both sacred and secular which, if this exceedingly fine work is in any way typical, is well worth investigating. Described as an "opera-oratorio", it joins the canon of great choral works on the Passion, in an idiom which is instantly accessible yet individual. Christ's Passion is a story of intense drama, obviously, which has been variously thus depicted in many previous works; what justifies the "operatic" description is mainly that the main characters are given arias at key points in the narrative in the words of interpolated texts by St Thérèse de Lisieux, the Russian poet Semyon Jakovlevich Nadson, Miguel de Unamuno, the African-American poet Countee Cullen, and the composer. These form stationary "tableaux", as it were, illuminating and illustrating the protagonists and thus presenting them as complete human beings as well as symbolic archetypes. The music is bold, colourful and tonal, largely drawing on the 20th century tonal mainstream and neo-romanticism, though with a variety of stylistic influences, notably in the "arias" which suggest an openness to the cinematic descriptiveness of great film scores (the events immediately leading up to the Crucifixion - the scenes with the high priest and Pilate, the Via Dolorosa - are as vividly depicted as in any film or opera, with insistent hammering motifs and rhythmic ostinati plunging the music forward to its climax). There are many moments of striking magnificence and power, with the choir as the baying crowd or the Angelic chorus, with the full heft of the substantial orchestra behind them. An added bonus is that the spoken role of the Evangelist is taken by Antonio Banderas - yes, that Antonio Banderas - a native of Málaga and an officer of a Roman Catholic brotherhood there, who delivers the Biblical texts with a degree of intensity and emotion seldom, if ever, encountered under the rubric of "narrator" in musical works. Sung in Italian and the native languages of the additional texts, with narration in Spanish; translations of all texts into Spanish only. 2 CDs. Antonio Banderas (narrator), Damián Castillo (baritone), Maria Grazia Schiavo (soprano), Lola Casariego (mezzo), David Lagares (tenor), Cármina Nova Choir, Pueri Cantores Málaga & Escolanía del Escorial, Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga; Antonio del Pino.