Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC
www.chancelopera.com
LITURGICAL OPERA: She Who Anointed Jesus's Feet
She Who Anointed Jesus's Feet
a musical meditation for soprano, flute and piano based on Luke 7:36-50
music and libretto by Susan Hulsman Bingham
Drawing by S.H. Bingham
 

Woman, soprano

CAST:

flute and piano

ACCOMPANIMENT:

CHORUS:

None

DANCE:

None

PROPS:

None unless you wish to stage this. We did it as an oratorio. If staged: tradition Biblical garb for the woman.


Gospels of Luke, Chapter 7:36-50

SOURCE OF TEXTS:

LANGUAGE:

English

spare, harmonic but gently experimental in places.

MUSICAL STYLE:

SCENES:

One scene. The entire piece is told by the woman who anointed Jesus's feet.

SOUND CLIP:

YouTube video with scrolling libretto (or simply listen, followingthe libretto printed below)

DURATION:

13 minutes

PREMIERED:

Sunday, October 13, 2019 at the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Allentown, PA

 

Libretto

 

WOMAN: Jesus will be a guest at Simon’s house, and this is why I come too. Outcasts like me are allowed but made to sit upon the floor against a wall, and fed after the guests have partaken. Such charity makes the rich look good.

I enter now. All stare and whisper. “She’s a sinner in the city,” the Pharisees say of me as their eyes search the room for Jesus. These men want to test him, bring him down for being so good and wise for one so young. I take my seat against the wall.

(Psalm 3, excerpt, adapted) (to the congregation) I’ve heard this rabbi has many foes, that many rise up against him. Yet in his trouble, he tends the poor and sick. While bearing insults, he guards our hearts, not heeding how we’ve lived and what we’ve done to make folks turn away and shut us out for being different from what even we had hoped to be.

And now the Master approaches the house, and Simon waves to him from afar. No one approaches him to kiss him, as is the custom. Nor does Simon give him water to wash his hands and feet. Nor does he give him oil. Ah! Ah! Ah!

Jesus goes to recline without waiting for the elders to do so first. And they all take offense. My heart goes out to him. . . . Now his head is out of my reach. I cannot anoint him. Perhaps I can wash his feet. Lo! I have neither towel nor water to wash those feet! . . . No one notices my presence anymore. I am free to see how my Lord is faring. His head and hands are out of reach. (She begins weeping.)

I would wash his feet, but I have no water. And to wipe those feet, I would need a towel. But look here! Are not my tears water? (She kneels. Jesus looks on her lovingly as her tears fall on His feet.)

My Lord, how many are your foes! How many rise up against you. Yet in your trouble, you tend the poor and sick. While bearing insults you touch my heart, not heeding how I’ve lived and what I’ve done to make folks turn away and shut me out for being different from what I had so hoped to be. (She rises and turns toward the congregation.)

I hear Simon whisper to his friends, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is: a sinner.”

Jesus rises and answers him, saying, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” says Simon.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. Neither of them had enough money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt to be forgiven.”
“You have judged rightly,” says Jesus.
“I came into your house. You did not give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not greet me with a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered here, has not stopped kissing my feet, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much, and such great love shows how deeply she knows she’s forgiven. Whereas he who loves little feels forgiven little.”

Jesus turns to me and says, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

The pharisees ask, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus answers them not, but says to me, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.

 

• • • •

Sources:
New Testament, NRSV translation

Kenneth E. Bailey, JESUS THROUGH MIDDLE EASTERN EYES: for his knowledge of
Middle Eastern customs and practice at the time of Jesus, and for his interpretation of
Luke 7:36-50.

Dr. Michael Ryce, healer and scholar of Aramaic, for his enlightening input on
the Aramaic meaning of forgiveness.

• • • •

 

 

Musical scores of "She Who Anointed Jesus's Feet" (piano/conductor score and flute part): $30. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S, as well as performance rights and permission to make as many copies of the score as needed for one group's performances in one season.



Musical scores (piano/conductor and flute part) of "She Who Anointed Jesus's Feet" as downloadable PDF file: $20. (You will be taken to thePayPal site. PayPal will then notify us of your purchase, and we will send you the PDF file.)

 

Composer's comment: We performed the premiere of this piece on October 13, 2019 as an oratorio. Would have loved to stage it in some minimal way but chose to have the Woman in a black cassock, standing at the center of the altar rail, using her music. Both performances went very well. Listen free on YouTube. SHB

 

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