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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Magdalene in Opera- a response




The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is the new opera by Mark Adamo. We saw it recently in San Francisco. It shows us Jesus in love with Magdalene, courting, seducing and marrying her. The plot with the love affair makes Jesus more alive and human than the gospels make him out to be. I hope this depiction of Jesus scandalizes the narrow of mind. Perhaps, it will open some minds to more loving thinking and acting.

Jesus’ teaching and words wove nicely through the dialogue and speeches. The crucifixion and resurrection scenes were played simply. The opera gave us another dimension of Jesus. We know so little about him as an historical figure, the drama fleshes him out in a much better way than the movies did.

We see Peter depicting women as inferior, Mary Magdalene shaping Jesus’ teachings, making them more loving and forgiving. We see Jesus’ mother, here named Miriam for some reason. She shares her fear and shame of having produced a bastard Jesus by the Holy Spirit and her anguish that Jesus rejects her.


Long ago in seminary we learned about the "extra" gospels and why they were not included in the canon of scripture. Most called for a gnosis or secret knowledge. Most were too apocalyptic or miraculous. Many, like the Magdalene story, were not borne out in other versions of the gospel. I think the study of these gospels is wonderful, but I have trouble enough with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to add the extra gospels to my confusion.

The extra or gnostic Gospels aroused popular interest in Jesus and Mary Magdalene after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls following World War ll. Elaine Pagels and others have written books about these scrolls and gospels.

The opera is a work of fiction built on information and traditions found in the Bible and the extra gospels. It does not pretend to be history or an accurate portrayal of real life events. It is a splendid act of the composer’s imagination to make us think, to inspire and even transform us, the viewers. The modernist music was pleasing and nourishing.



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