La Passione di Gesù Cristo is the title of a libretto by Metastasio which was repeatedly set as an azione sacra or oratorio by many composers of the late Baroque, Rococo and early classical periods. The libretto was written by the imperial poet in Rome on the instruction of Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor. The four central roles are San Pietro, San Giovanni, Maria Maddalena, Giuseppe d’Arimatea – with John, Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea answering Peter’s questions about the crucifixion.
Jommelli is without a doubt one of the finest composers between the transition between the Baroque and the Classicism. His version of “Passione” (1749, Rome) is already written in the classical style – the continuo accompaniment harmonizes the all-important central melodic line, and the upper strings and winds double it, harmonize it, embellish it, or illustrate it, but seldom enter into contrapunctal competition. Jommelli was famous for his eloquent orchestrally accompanied recitatives. His writing in sacred music is very operatic.