Christus (opera)

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Christus is an opera in seven scenes with a prologue and epilogue by Anton Rubinstein, written between the years 1887-1893 to a libretto after a poem by Heinrich Bulthaupt.


Christus was described by its composer as a 'sacred opera'. This is a term invented by Rubinstein, ('geistliche Oper' in German) denoting staged works with 'use of polyphonic choruses and a sober, edifying style relying on ‘exalted declamation’.'[1] Rubinstein composed three other works of this type, Sulamith, Moses and Der Thurm zu Babel (The Tower of Babel). A fifth sacred opera, Cain, was uncompleted at his death.

Rubinstein considered Christus to be his finest composition.[2]

Performance history[edit]

Parts of the work were performed in Berlin in April 1894, and Rubinstein conducted a complete performance in Stuttgart on 2 June 1894. This was in fact his last public appearance as a conductor.[3] The work received a further series of complete performances, at Bremen, in 1895. Applause between scenes and after the performance was forbidden.[4] Apparently the work was not revived until a performance in Tyumen in 2002, conducted by the composer's great-grandson, Anton Sharoyev. This was also therefore the work's first performance in Russia. A recording of part of the work was made from live performances under Sharoyev in St. Petersburg in 2003.[5]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, June 2, 1894
(Conductor:Anton Rubinstein )
Angel of the annunciation soprano
Jesus Christ tenor Raimund von zur-Mühlen
Satan bass
John the Baptist baritone
The Virgin Mary contralto
Pontius Pilate baritone
Judas Iscariot baritone
Mary Magdalene soprano
Chorus: mob, angels, demons, priests etc.


Christus treats the life of Jesus according to the New Testament. It is made up of the following scenes:


  • Anon, Sleeve notes to recording of Christus; Anton Sharoyev conducting Tyumen State Philharominc Orchestra, 2003,"Zvuk" ZV - 11 03207
  • Graham Dixon and Richard Taruskin. "Sacred opera." Grove Music Online accessed 17 April 2010
  • H Krehbiel, A Second Book of Operas, accessed 17 April 2010
  • Charles Maclean, Rubinstein as Composer for the Pianoforte (January–March 1914). Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft 15. Jahrg. (H. 2.): pp. 360–374.
  • R. Taruskin, Christian Themes in Russian Opera: A Millennial Essay(March 1990). Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1): pp. 83–91.


  1. ^ Dixon and Taruskin, Sacred opera
  2. ^ Maclean (1914)
  3. ^ Taylor (2007), 235
  4. ^ Taruskin (1990); Krehbiel
  5. ^ Sleeve notes to recording of Christus, 2003