Read about why I chose these classic texts on evil here.
This piece was commissioned by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. I was asked to write a work that would serve in the Palm Sunday liturgy, and with some (unspecified) interpolated texts. As someone who had conducted the Bach a few times, and had also done various versions for our liturgy including Gregorian chant, Victoria’s setting, and a couple others, I quickly knew how I wanted to structure the biblical portion of the Passion story. The five "acts" of the Passion (Garden, Jesus before the High Priest, Trial before Pilate, Crucifixion, and Burial) were already separated in my mind. To me, the burial scene often dulled the drama, even in Bach's masterpiece, so I decided to use the burial scene as a series of flashbacks, with the last couple sentences in their chronological place following the death of Jesus. I knew I wanted a soprano evangelist, and I knew I wanted Jesus to be portrayed by an ensemble of voices, rather than a soloist.
The biblical scenes came together as I pondered the interpolated texts. To me, Passion settings tended to focus on the suffering and death of Jesus, rather than what he suffered for. To me, the most amazing thing about this story, if one is to believe it, is that Jesus died for all of the evil in the world, past, present, and future. Therefore, I decided to concentrate on texts related to evil. Rather than focus on specific events, which would be rather preachy, I decided to choose classic texts on the nature of evil and evil's incarnation, the devil. The first time Faust meets Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, Lady MacBeth's famous speech, and the last Canto of Dante's Inferno all served as ideal depictions of the nature of evil in human affairs. Lastly, Blake's short poem, The Sick Rose, was set in three variations to serve as a Bach chorale (of sorts).