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’.' 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.
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. The work received a further series of complete performances, at Bremen, in 1895. Applause between scenes and after the performance was forbidden. 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.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, June 2, 1894
(Conductor:Anton Rubinstein )
|Angel of the annunciation||soprano|
|Jesus Christ||tenor||Raimund von zur-Mühlen|
|John the Baptist||baritone|
|The Virgin Mary||contralto|
|Chorus: mob, angels, demons, priests etc.|
- Outside the stable at Bethlehem; the three kings arrive to pay homage.
- Jesus arguing with Satan in the desert
- His baptism by John
- Jesus performs miracles and defends Mary Magdalene.
- Jesus's anger in the Temple
- The last supper and Jesus's arrest
- The trial before Pilate
- The crucifixion (off-stage): demons and angels battle.
- St Paul leads praise of Christ.
- 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.
- Dixon and Taruskin, Sacred opera
- Maclean (1914)
- Taylor (2007), 235
- Taruskin (1990); Krehbiel
- Sleeve notes to recording of Christus, 2003