UCLA composition professor explores the life of Jesus Christ in his latest oratorio

Arts + Culture

’The Passion of Yeshua,’ by Richard Danielpour, will be performed for free on Dec. 9 in Royce Hall

Ariane Bicho

When Grammy-award winning composer Richard Danielpour joined the composition faculty in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in September 2017, he was making final revisions on his latest work, “ The Passion of Yeshua. An epic 100-minute oratorio in 14 scenes, the work explores the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

“I have thought about writing this work for the last 25 years,” said Danielpour, who has long been fascinated by the person he considers the “most talked about and written about figure in history.”

Situated in the historical musical legacy of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” Danielpour’s “The Passion of Yeshua” will receive a single performance on Dec. 9 in Royce Hall, featuring the school’s signature orchestra, the UCLA Philharmonia , and 120 immensely talented singers from the UCLA Choral Studies Program. Special guest artists include Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann; Amanda Lynn Bottoms, mezzo-soprano; Timothy Fallon, tenor; Michael Dean, professor of music performance at UCLA, bass-baritone; and Matthew Worth, baritone.

Danielpour, known for his distinctive American musical voice, has established himself as one of the most gifted and sought-after composers of his generation. His list of commissions is vast, including for renowned artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Frederica von Stade, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and institutions such as the New York Philharmonic and Vienna Chamber Orchestra, among others. His first opera “Margaret Garner” — written with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison — took critics and audiences by storm with sold-out houses in its 2005 premiere by the co-commissioning opera companies of Detroit, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. In 2007, New York City Opera opened its season with an entirely new production.

The Passion of Yeshua is Sunday, Dec. 9 in Royce Hall at 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Screengrab from video for "The Passion of Yeshua"


Richard Danielpour, professor of music composition in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.


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