Elena Sala Di Felice

Vienna: devoto esordio metastasiano

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The "Passione di Gesù Cristo" was the first work that Metastasio wrote expressly for the Viennese Court. The choice of subject matter can be seen as an homage to Vienna's liturgical celebrations of Holy Week, or as a propitiatory gesture by a court poet who knew he had difficult tasks ahead of him. The dramatist recounts the humiliation and death of Christ through three figures: Peter, John and Mary Magdalene - all representatives of a sinful humanity that is redeemed by Christ's sacrifice and thence united in the community of the Church. The scene of the suffering is vividly effective, and perhaps drew on memories of paintings or of the printed images that were then widely available. The poet's skill in using language to evoke what is not represented is seen as the result of the experience he gained in Italian theatres. Almost in compensation for the unjust, and yet providential, shame of the Cross, Metastasio offers us future historical triumphs and the "end of all time," in which Christ would take on the role of a supreme judge whose justice would also be felt by the proud and treacherous Jerusalem.

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