Jonah is a setting of every word of the Book of Jonah for mezzo-soprano and piano. The piece is – slightly mischievously – labelled an oratorio, due to its organisation into recitatives, arias and choruses. The closest referents are the two Bach Passions, which set complete sections of the Gospels of John and Matthew respectively. In contrast to those works, however, Jonah is very light-hearted, and can perhaps best be considered an affectionate send-up of those pieces.
In Part I, God orders Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it. Jonah flees from him, however, and instead gets on a boat to Tarshish. God creates a storm that only abates when Jonah is thrown off the boat into the sea, where he is swallowed by a big fish. Part II is a single long aria for Jonah. From the belly of the fish, Jonah repents and pledges his obedience to God. He is released from the fish. In Part III, Jonah goes to Nineveh and prophesies against the city, as God has originally commanded. When the inhabitants of Nineveh repent, God forgives them for their alleged wickedness. Finally, in Part IV, Jonah is angry at God’s change of heart, and wishes to die, while God rebukes him for his anger. I was above all – alongside the big fish – attracted to Jonah’s disobedience, and the piece ends with a celebration of Jonah’s independence.
Instrumentation: Mezzo-Soprano, Piano