Verdi: Messa da Requiem
Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
London Symphony Chorus
Danielle Barcellona: Mezzo-soprano
Giorgio Berrugi: Tenor
Erika Grimaldi: Soprano
Vitali Kowaljow: Bass
After Giaochino Rossini last Saturday afternoon, I eagerly moved to Giuseppe Verdi on Sunday afternoon as the London Symphony Orchestra was in town to perform the latter’s magnificent Requiem. Dedicated to Italian poet Allessandro Manzoni, but also including an updated version of "Libera Me", which the composer had written for a Requiem in honor of Rossini that was never completed, and my favorite "Dies Irae" ever, Verdi’s Requiem was a totally appropriate and most welcome addition to the Lincoln Center’s annual White Light Festival.
Last Sunday was as unseasonably hot and muggy as could be for late October, so I actually got to double my pleasure by enjoying a cold Mister Softee ice-cream on the Lincoln Center’s Hearst Plaza alone and Verdi’s red-hot Requiem inside the David Geffen Hall with my friend Christine, the enjoyment only being slightly compromised by the cranked-up AC that was mercilessly blowing on us in the back of the orchestra, but we tried not to let such a minor detail unduly bother us and focused on the music instead.
When it comes to an irresistible mix of spirituality and theatricality, nothing that I know of has ever beaten the glorious fireball that is Verdi’s Requiem. And with the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus – Not to mention Verdi aficionado Gianandrea Noseda on the podium – Judgment Day Verdi-style turned out as uncompromisingly intense as one could have hoped for, and then some.
While Verdi was not a religious man, he still managed to cleverly extract the most dramatic portions of the inevitably yawn-inducing Roman Catholic funeral mass and matched them to a truly grand score, in which he made sure to incorporate some blazing parts for the chorus and carefully calibrated parts for the soloists. The end result never fails to immediately catch the listener’s attention by exploding with ferocious flamboyance while still letting more subtle human emotions beautifully blossom.
So on Sunday afternoon, the audience was transported in one swell swoop into a musical version of the after-life that was impressively broad in scope and profusely high in color. Although Verdi’s Requiem is well-known for its fierce spirit, which is displayed at its best in the electrifying "Dies Irae", it also contains quite a few elegiac moments, such as "The Lux Aeterna" movement, which were delicately expressed as well.
The four soloists, in particular, kept busy alone and together with complex parts, and all carried out their assignments with commitment and poise. Special kudos should be directed at tenor Giorgio Berrugi, who was a last-minute replacement, but did not let the short notice get in the way of delivering a confident performance.
Beside drawing excellent performances from all the instrumentalists and singers involved – and there were a lot of them –maestro Noseda also has to be commended for keeping a consistently excellent balance among all those various fired-up components of the superb whole, ensuring that we would all enjoy as full an experience as can be, and that we did. Even the raging downpour we had to contend with as we were exiting the concert hall did not succeed in dampening our seriously elevated spirits.