While the musical style of Jesus Christ Superstar is grounded in a variety of the popular music idioms of the late 60s and early 70s, it is a through-composed opera in exactly the way that the operas of Verdi, Wagner, and Strauss are. The music serves to expand and heighten the meaning of the words and the situations of the plot.
Superstar is the story of the last week of Christ's life and its plot is a conflation of the Gospel accounts of that week, not including the Resurrection. As in the Passions of Bach, the famous songs and set pieces for the numerous characters and for the very important chorus often reflect on and amplify the familiar narrative.
While Superstar doesn't ask the audience to engage in personal reflection as Bach's Passions do, the great chorus before the Crucifixion asks a pointed question that some find blasphemous: Jesus Christ, Superstar, Do you think you're what they say you are?
The impact of this question is anticipated by Jesus' response to the frantic chorus of the Lepers who come to him begging to be healed: There's too many of you - don't push me There's too little of me - don't crowd me. Heal yourselves. This question of whether the Jesus thought himself to be divine is a central question of post-modern theology.
Scott Miller, a notable historian of popular music and music theatre in the last half of the 20th century wrote an essay that we highly recommend as both entertaining and very thoughtful: Inside Jesus Christ Superstar: Background and Analysis.
The Wikipedia article about Superstar contains an excellent, detailed synopsis.
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Sunday, July 23, 5:30 PM
Wednesday-Saturday, July 26-29, 7:30 PM
Sunday, July 30, 5:30 PM
Running time: 2 hours, with one 15-minute interval
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Superstar contains many memorable songs. Here are two to remind you of the wonderful things to be heard in the score.
The first is from the scene early in Act I, Heaven on their Minds, in which the political firebrand that is Judas Iscariot in Superstar muses:
Jesus! You've started to believe
The things they say of you ...
You've begun to matter more
Than the things you say.
And second is perhaps the most famous song of all, I Don't Know How to Love Him, the song Mary Magdalene sings after Jesus has walked away from the Lepers, very upset. Mary watches him fall asleep and sings of her love and confusion about him.
In 1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were both young men eager to establish themselves in the world of musical theatre. They had already collaborated on an early version of what we now know as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That earlier work led to their collaboration on a concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar released in 1970, which led to the first authorized American concert presentation in July 1971 and then to Superstar's debut on Broadway in October of that year ... and the rest is history!
Superstar has been revived on Broadway and in Britain and Canada numerous times, with a new Broadway production in 2012. It is a staple of the opera house repertoire in Germany. It has been translated into numerous languages and received professional productions in Brazil, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico, Bulgaria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, among many others. From humble beginnings, Superstar has become a beloved work around the world.
|Mary Magdalene||Rochelle Bard|
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