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It highlights political and interpersonal struggles betweenJudas Iscariot and Jesus. The opera is based on the account in St John's Gospel of the last week of Jesus' life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem, and ending with the Crucifixion. Twentiethcentury attitudes and sensibilities as well as contemporary slang pervade the lyrics, and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout the depiction of political events. Stage and film productions accordingly feature many intentional anachronisms. The work's depiction of Jesus is significantly different from Biblical accounts, and offers a free interpretation of the psychology of Jesus and the other characters. Jesus is not depicted as divine or making the high Christological claims found in the Gospels, and the resurrection is not included. A large part of the plot focuses on the character of Judas, who is depicted as a tragic figure who is dissatisfied with what he views as Jesus' lack of planning, and is alarmed by his recent claims of divinity. He fears that Jesus will doom the Jewish people at the hands of the Romans. Plot Act I The apostle Judas Iscariot expresses in musical monologue his concern over Jesus' rising popularity as a "king" and the negative repercussions that will have ("Heaven on Their Minds"). While Judas still loves Jesus, he believes that Jesus is just a man, not God, and worries that Jesus' following will be seen as a threat to the Roman Empire which would then punish both Jesus and his associates. Judas' warning falls on deaf ears, as Jesus' followers have their minds set on going to Jerusalem with Jesus. As they ask Jesus when they will be arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus tells them to stop worrying about the future, since whatever will happen is determined by God ("What's the Buzz?"). Recognizing that Jesus is irritated by the badgering from his followers, Mary Magdalene tries to help Jesus relax. Judas is concerned that Jesus is associating with Mary, who is a prostitute. It seems to Judas that Jesus is contradicting his own teaching, and he worries this will be used against Jesus and his followers ("Strange Thing Mystifying"). Jesus tells Judas that unless he is without sin himself, he should not judge the character of others. Jesus then reproaches his apostles for being "shallow, thick and slow" and exclaims that not a single one of them cares about him. Mary Magdalene tries to assure Jesus that "Everything's Alright" while anointing him with oil. Judas angrily insists that the money used to obtain the oil should have been used to help the poor. Jesus sadly explains that he and his followers do not have the resources to help every poor person. Jesus casts the money changers out of the Temple. Meanwhile, Caiaphas (the high priest), Annas, and other Jewish priests meet to discuss Jesus and his movement. Jesus' growing following consists of Jews unwilling to accept the Romans as their rulers, and the priests believe that Jesus may be seen as becoming a threat to the Roman Empire. If the Romans retaliate, many Jews will suffer, even those who are not following Jesus. Caiaphas states that the only real solution is to kill Jesus ("This Jesus Must Die"). As Jesus and his followers arrive in Jerusalem, they are confronted by Caiaphas, who demands that Jesus disband them. However, Jesus replies that putting an end to it is impossible ("Hosanna"). Jesus
Judas reveals that on Thursday night. has dreamed of meeting with Jesus and has seen that he. Jesus arrives at the Temple in Jerusalem and finds that it is being used for selling everything from weapons to prostitutes and drugs. The disciples resist Jesus' arrest. but he agrees when Caiaphas tells him of charities to which he can give the money. Jesus pleads for God to take his life quickly ("Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)"). Judas initially turns down the offer. and Jesus implores God to not let him suffer the horrible death God has planned for him. While Jesus is asleep. Mary Magdalene finds Jesus upset and tells him to rest ("Everything's Alright"). still angry at Jesus. and Peter denies to each that he knows Jesus." This answer is affirmative according to Jewish custom. Jesus is arrested. while emphasizing that he is acting with unselfish motives ("Damned for All Time"). Angry and tired. On the way. When Jesus is brought to trial before the Sanhedrin. a soldier and a maid. will receive all of the blame for Jesus' death ("Pilate's Dream"). but he is unlike any man that she has loved before ("I Don't Know How to Love Him").is approached by his apostle Simon the Zealot. He tells them that they should think of the wine as his blood and the bread as his body. Caiaphas demands that Judas reveal the location of Jesus so that the authorities can apprehend him. Caiaphas asks if he is the son of God. he pours wine and passes bread for his apostles. Jesus' apostle Peter is confronted by an old man. nor do they understand his true message ("Poor Jerusalem"). Jesus tells the crowd to heal themselves. He is furious and demands that the merchants and money changers leave the temple ("The Temple"). but Jesus tells them to put up their swords Judas arrives with Roman soldiers and identifies Jesus by kissing him on the cheek. Their number increases. Jesus realizes that he cannot defy God's will. Judas confesses that he is the one. goes to bring the Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus ("The Last Supper"). and that provides enough justification for the high priests to send Jesus to Pontius Pilate ("The Arrest"). Jesus will be at the Garden of Gethsemane. Mary asks Peter why he denied Jesus. Meanwhile. Act II At what Jesus knows will be the Last Supper. Jesus wanders off but is confronted by lepers. the governor of Judea. Jesus responds: "That's what you say. Jesus rejects this suggestion. cripples. stating that none of his followers understand what true power is. all wanting to be healed. Judas. and Peter responds that he had to do it . you say that I am. He feels disillusioned with his quest as the Messiah and wishes to give up. Pilate. and in the future should eat this meal together in remembrance of him. Judas seeks out the priests and promises to help them against Jesus. who suggests that Jesus lead his mob in a war against Rome and gain absolute power ("Simon Zealotes"). Unable to solve everyone's problems. and beggars. a mob (acting like modern-day news reporters) asks Jesus what he plans to do. Pontius Pilate. He predicts that Peter will deny him three times. The remaining eleven apostles fall sleep. Judas is offered money ("Blood Money"). When Jesus states that one of them will betray him. and Jesus is overwhelmed. Mary acknowledges that she is in love with Jesus. Judas included. Receiving no answer. but Jesus declines to comment. In exchange for the information. Judas decides that it would be better to turn Jesus in before his popularity leads to the deaths of Jesus and his followers. Jesus tells them to let the soldiers take him to Caiaphas. and his apostles attempt to fight the soldiers.
Pilate says that he is not under his jurisdiction and sends him to King Herod ("Pilate and Christ"). Judas questions why Jesus chose to arrive in the manner that he did. and Pilate recalls his duty to keep the peace. counting thirty-nine bloody strokes. Pilate calls the crowd hypocrites. and the crowd breaks into a pep rally-style cheer about how Jesus has defied Rome. The crowd still screams for Jesus to be crucified. and wish "Could We Start Again. Judas blames God for choosing him to be the one to betray Jesus. Herod decides that Jesus is just another phony messiah and sends him back to Pilate ("Herod's Song (Try It and See)"). Jesus gives the same answer that he gave Caiaphas: "that's what you said. Pilate pleads with Jesus to defend himself. fearing he will forever be remembered as a traitor. and he commits suicide ("Judas' Death"). At Jesus' trial. and Pilate cannot change it. The apostles and Mary Magdalene remember when they first began following Jesus. the chorus asks where Jesus' power has gone ("Hosanna"). Please?" Feeling extreme guilt for Jesus' harsh treatment by the authorities. "John Nineteen: FortyOne"). He attempts to satisfy their bloodlust by having Jesus whipped." Since Jesus is from Galilee. offering to free him if he complies. King Herod asks him to prove his divinity by performing miracles. but Jesus ignores him. while Jesus should be imprisoned. Caiaphas says that what he has done will save everyone. Pilate tells the crowd that. . their king.in order to save himself. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the son of God. but Jesus weakly says that everything has been determined (by God). Jesus is put on a cross and slowly dies ("The Crucifixion". He reluctantly agrees to crucify Jesus ("Trial Before Pilate (Including the Thirty-Nine Lashes)"). and they declare: "We have no king but Caesar!" Pilate remembers the dream he had about the crowd and the unjust execution of Jesus ("Pilate's Dream" instrumental). and if what happened to him was really part of a divine plan ("Superstar"). he sees the spirit of Judas. he does not deserve to die. as he knows they hate Roman rule. Pilate asks the crowd if they would crucify Jesus. Mary wonders how Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times ("Peter's Denial"). Left alone. As Jesus is dragged away. Pilate demands that the crowd give him a reason to condemn Jesus. As Jesus prepares to be crucified. Judas expresses regret to the priests.