This review is by Ray E. Robinson, acting director, Conservatory of Music, Peabody Institute, Baltimore:
An event of religious as well as musical significance took place in Indianapolis December 14 as Jerome Hines’s opera on the life of Christ, I Am the Way, received its first full-scale performance, at beautiful Clowes Hall. The biblical drama was part of the regular subscription series of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Izler Solomon. Hines himself sang the role of Christ.
The choice of site was fortunate. Clowes Hall is ideally suited, both acoustically and aesthetically, for opera on a grand scale. The orchestra added that final touch of professional quality so necessary for a satisfying musical experience. And a near-capacity audience—largest Thursday-night turnout of the season—viewed the production.
In composing a religious drama, Hines revived a tradition that dates back to the Greeks. Biblical drama, common in the Middle Ages, apparently began with performances of parts of the liturgy in a dramatic setting; the priests actually represented the characters rather than merely narrating the events. This approach was first applied to the Resurrection story, later to the Nativity, then to other scenes.
During the Renaissance, an antipathy developed between the Church and the theater, and composers turned to secular dramatic works. Since then, except for the cantata, oratorio, and passion, the field of religious dramatic music has been left to such vaguely religious works as Parsifal and Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Although Hines’s musical idiom might be considered somewhat outdated and commercially spectacular, the impact of his opera upon the listener is unquestionable. This is more than a religious ...1
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