Now that there’s a new pope and Easter is around the corner, it might be time to revisit this incredible work. I saw it performed in Orange County a decade ago, and it was one of the most explosive and stylistically varied operas I’d ever heard. It gave the lie to the heavy-handed world of Wagner or the silly scenarios of Verdi. La Pasión Según San Marcos was a mix of opera, Cuban rumba (I mean the real deal here), world music, salsa, Haitian, Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. It was the whole diaspora, the amalgam of Western and African synergies that make Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian and Haitian music so rich. It is certainly the most African of all operas, including the classic Missa collection of Missa Luba, Misa Criolla, and Misa Flamenca recordings.
Osvaldo Golijov, a Jewish composer from Argentina, has done a striking, powerful, and passionate work that is full of everything but Old Testament strictures. It is an act of joy transcending culture and religion. It is and will remain my favorite of all his works. I recommend the Deutsche Grammophon recording from 2009 that comes with a DVD in this 3-disc set.
I can assure that you’ll never hear so much rhythm jumping out at you in any other operatic work.