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John Adams's "Gospel According to the Other Mary" to Be Given World Premiere by LA Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel

John Adams profile
John Adams's new oratorio, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, receives its world premiere tonight in the first of four concert performances this week by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. While Adams's 2000 piece El Niño was his take on a Nativity oratorio with a libretto by Peter Sellars, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, an LA Phil commission, is their vision of a Passion, juxtaposing Biblical narratives with contemporary meditations, images, and challenging experiences. Sellars’ new libretto includes words of five extraordinary women—Louise Erdrich, Dorothy Day, Rosario Castellanos, June Jordan, and Hildegard—which are set by Adams. Dudamel and the LA Phil will give the world stage premiere in March 2013. Watch Adams discuss the piece in an LA Phil video below.

"It's the main event in much of Western civilization," Adams tells the Wall Street Journal's David Mermelstein of the subject addressed in his new work. "It's the story that practically every painter, sculptor, architect and musician dealt with nearly exclusively for 1,500 years. So I feel almost anything I say sounds superfluous. But every person has a need to express their own deepest feelings about life and death, charity and cruelty, poverty and affluence. Why Jesus is so meaningful to me is that he's so stubborn. There are a lot of messages in St. Paul and some of the other Gospels that I don't go along with. But this image of a man who's stubborn—just like Gandhi or Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King—is something we need to think about all the time."

Read more of what Adams has to say on the piece in the Wall Street Journal feature at


John Adams spoke with the Los Angeles Times' Reed Johnson for a feature article on The Gospel According to the Other Mary published on Sunday. He discusses, among other things, his own reservations about addressing such a monumental subject in his work.

"I doubted whether my moral or spiritual powers were strong enough to try to take on this archetypal image, this event, which all the greatest artists in Western history, from Michelangelo to Johann Sebastian Bach to Bernini have dealt with. And then here's John Adams, a sort of secular liberal living in Berkeley, Calif., dealing with this," Adams tells the Times.

And yet, Johnson suggests, the resulting work should allay any such concerns. "Modesty and secular liberalism aside, Adams' take on his subject is a timely, politically engaged one and unabashedly so," he writes. "However, the politics of Gospel are artfully melded with its broader humanistic and spiritual concerns."

It's a common thread in the composer's work, says Johnson. "If Adams' work is notable for its willingness to grapple with such thorny subtexts, it's also been lauded for its emotional intensity and accessibility. Those qualities haven't always been prized by theory-driven abstract modern composers and their academic enforcers in music conservatories. But it's been central to Adams' achievement."

Adams explains: "Music, above and beyond everything else, it's the art of feeling, and it's why it can drive people crazy and make them very angry or it can fill them with a sense of ecstasy. And I guess this was something that had to happen in my life."

Read the complete Los Angeles Times feature article at


Watch John Adams discuss The Gospel According to the Other Mary in an LA Phil video here:


When can we hope for a recording of this work? Will a DVD also be available?

Is DVD already available? Thank you

According to the Chicago Tribune, the piece will be recorded by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel for CD release on the Deutsche Grammophon label sometime next year. We do not know whether they will release a DVD as well.

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