Short history of the play «Barabbas»

Short history of the play «Barabbas»

by Vladimir Alkhovik

I used to be an officer in the Russian Armed Forces. While still in the service I tried to write poetry. After I was discharged in the reserve, I started working in the sphere of security in St. Petersburg in the difficult 90s, when all the foundations of the former authoritarian system collapsed overnight.

The feeling of utter bankruptcy and emptiness that a whole generation felt after the collapse of the USSR provided fertile ground for many extremes and experiments that literally burst into the lives of our "deceived generation" in order to fill the emptiness that had formed in their souls. In the end, some of my friends started to serve and worship money, others had their lives shattered by the new reality, others were pushed onto the path of crime by their hopeless situation, and still others were drawn towards the Light in the midst of the darkness that reigned so cruelly in those troubled times...

I wrote the play "Barabbas" trying to catch the connection of times and the regularity of certain historical processes, which can significantly correspond to our current realities and reality.

As a former military man, it was important for me to find an answer to the question: "Can two warring nations, or at least their individual representatives, be reconciled if each side is sure of its rightness and insists on its own 'Greatness'? In this particular play, I tried to find an answer to this question by operating with some events in our history.

The catalyst for writing this piece was a reading of the historical reference in Ephraim Chambers' Cyclopaedia to Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian, one of the main representatives of the Jewish-Hellenistic Chronicle.

Then comes the historical reference mentioned about the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate:

"In 26-36 years - the fifth Roman procurator of Judea, Samaria and Idumea (Tacitus calls him procurator of Judea, Josephus Flavius - governor /igemon/ and viceroy, and the inscription found in Caesarea shows, that he, like other Roman governors of Judea from 6 to 41 years, was in the post of prefect).

Philo of Alexandria says that his reign was marked by cruelty, violence and continual executions without any trial; in the letter of Agrippa I quoted by Philo, Pilate is described as corrupt, cruel and bloodthirsty.

Josephus wrote that Pilate's first act as governor almost provoked a public uprising: his predecessors, respecting the religious feelings of the Jews, had removed all figures and pictures from their banners on entering Jerusalem; Pilate let the soldiers carry them into the city at night. As soon as this became known to the Jews, the crowds rushed to Caesarea, the residence of the procurator, and asked him to remove the images. After five days of futile negotiations Pilate ordered his soldiers to surround the petitioners and threatened them that he would kill them all if they did not stop bothering him. "

After a brief analysis and a comparison of the dates of the mentioned events, I understood that all this took place at the time of the first coming of Jesus Christ on the territory of modern Israel.

So almost immediately after reading the materials of this chronicle, the plot of the play "Barabbas" was born and the text itself, right after that, was written within a month.

For almost a year my work was not in demand, after which the idea of staging an opera in cooperation with a young and very gifted composer Andrei Maksimov arose. As we collaborated, the play was transformed into a libretto for an opera and the whole thing became a product of our joint efforts. Some parts of the play had to be rewritten at Andrei's request, others we simply shortened because they were unnecessary. As a result of the synergy between the composer and the librettist, the opera took on its finished form and began to take on entirely new colours... And that's how it all came together!

The possibility of translating it into English was another pleasant surprise for me. I think Helen Daniels did a wonderful job with all her poetic and musical potential. I look forward to the Premiere today, and believe that this work may be in demand in the light of the search for solutions to pacify existing military and religious conflicts. And, of course, I hope that all our combined efforts can ultimately serve the cause of peace.

"All things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation" 2 Corinthians 5:17.