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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Verdi Requiem

In place of the cancelled Forza, four concert performances of Verdi's thunderous Requiem.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Met Chorus and soloists in the Verdi Requiem.
Photo © 2017 The Metropolitan Opera courtesy the press department, 
Giuseppe Verdi's setting of the Messa da Requiem has been called his best opera that doesn't have a staging. Here, the Met offers this massive work as a substitute for its cancelled production of La Forza del Destino. 

What is the Verdi Requiem?
Despite the presence of priests, preachers and pagan celebrants in the pages of his 28 operas, Verdi was not a religious man. However, in 1874, he published the Messa da Requiem, a large-scale setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. It is the most important of his handful of liturgical works: a setting of the liturgical text that treats its story with all the power and energy that is found in his greatest operas.

What's a Requiem?
This is a multi-movement setting of the Catholic mass, including the usual liturgical movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. However, what everybody remembers from this piece is the Sequence, which opens with the Dies Irae (lit. "Wrath of God"). This is a thunderous depiction of the Day of Judgment, which appears in countless movies and commercials, often in front of audiences that don't know it's by Verdi. In fact the Dies Irae was featured in the hit 2016 movie Mad Max: Fury Road, accompanying the kamikaze run of the Bullet Farmer, a crazed munitions dealer. The climax of the Requiem is a final plea for mercy before the Almighty.

What's the music like?
This is a solemn, sacred work for soloists, chorus and orchestra that moves with the weight and dramatic flexibility of an opera. It's Verdi. It's powerful. It's really bloody great. The famous opening of the Dies Irae ("Wrath of God") is so powerful that it has appeared throughout popular culture and film, most recently as the music accompanying the suicide run of the Bullet Farmer in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Who's in it?
These performances feature the ever-ready Metropolitan Opera Chorus and MET Orchestra with four soloists: Krassimira Stoyanova, Ekaterina Semenchuk, tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto. James Levine conducts these performances.

How's the production?
This is a concert staging with chorus and orchestra so there are no sets or costumes. That's sure to annoy somebody on Opera-L.

Why should I see it?
Because the Met doesn't do this often and this is a magnificent and terrifying work.

When does it open?
The first concert performance is Nov. 24, the last is Dec. 2.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?

Recording Recommendations:
Coro e Orchestra della Scala cond. Claudio Abbado (DG, 1986)
Claudio Abbado recorded the Verdi Requiem twice for DG. This recording features the same soloists that appear in many of his opera recordings for the Yellow Label, with Katia Ricciarelli, Shirley Verrett, Placido Domingo (in prime voice) and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Top-notch.

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