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ENO Seven Last Words from Haydn and Thompson

Published: 5 February 2022
Reporter: Vera Liber

ENO's Seven Last Words

On Wednesday 13 April 2022, English National Opera will presents a concert of Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words on the Cross and Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, the first time these two pieces have been performed together live in the UK.

In Haydn’s piece, commissioned in 1786 for a Good Friday service at Cádiz Cathedral, each of the seven movements forms a musical reflection on Jesus’s last words before the crucifixion, as told by the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John.

American composer Joel Thompson uses the liturgical format and tradition of Haydn’s piece as a departure for his choral work. Taking its name from the last words of seven unarmed black men unlawfully killed by law enforcement in the United States, it offers the composer's intimate response to racially motivated police brutality.

Originally written for a male voice choir, American Conductor Kellen Gray, will conduct the expanded chorus in this orchestral arrangement of the 15-minute piece.