Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Although the Gospels tell of Christ and his crucifixion, there always remain questions about Jesus’ divinity. Jesus Christ Superstar was first recorded in 1970 as a rock opera, the story of the final days of Jesus’ life presented in a contemporary idiom. After the record’s release, the opera was staged on Broadway in 1971 and in London in 1972, and it was released as a film in 1973. The rock opera, among the first of its genre, has since seen many stage productions around the world.
The work begins with an aria by Jesus’ disciple and later betrayer Judas, in which he worries that Jesus has gone too far and that his message of love and peace is being distorted into a call for rebellion against the Roman rulers, who Judas is sure will destroy all of Israel. The scene then turns to Christ’s followers, who are excited about the upcoming entry into Jerusalem and sing out, “What’s the Buzz?” Jesus is disturbed by the talk of rebellion, but Mary Magdalene comforts him, much to the dismay of Judas, who decries Mary’s sordid reputation as a prostitute. Angered, Jesus points out that only those without sin should cast stones. Mary calms Jesus, telling him to try not to worry in the soothing song “Everything’s Alright.”
Meanwhile, the Jewish high priest Caiaphas meets with his council, who urge him to kill Jesus before the Romans lose their tempers. Caiaphas agrees; Jesus is a threat to the priests’ authority as much as that of the Romans. As Jesus and his followers make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Simon Zealotes urges rebellion against the Romans. Saddened, Jesus argues that they have misunderstood his message.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, is troubled by a recurring nightmare in which a haunted-looking man appears and is torn apart by a roomful of angry people who keep mentioning Pilate’s name. Pilate worries about the blame he would incur if ever such an event occurred. The scene then changes from Pilate to the rage of Jesus at finding the temple in Jerusalem filled with merchants and moneylenders. He furiously drives everyone out and then finds a quiet place to relax, only to be smothered by a crowd of lepers and paupers begging for his help....
(The entire section is 911 words.)
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