Verdi: Requiem

Conductor Duain Wolfe

Barbara Livingstone, soprano Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano Luc Robert, tenor Gaetan Laperriere, baritone

Chorus of the Berkshire Choral Festival & the CBC Radio Orchestra

Date 23 June 2007, 8pm Venue Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Reviewer Ed Farolan

If Verdi were alive to witness the performance of the Berkshire Choir's rendition of his Requiem, he would have been extremely elated. The Vancouver audience stood on their feet for five minutes shouting bravos to this magnificent group whose conductor and four soloists had to come in three times for curtain calls.

Not only was the presentation magnificent, both the arrangement and the interpretation of this Verdi classic were excellent. Comments like "excellent,""fabulous," and "fantastic" were reiterated as the Vancouver audience filed out of The Chan.

The entire seven segments of the composition modeled after the Requiem Mass or Mass for the Dead were sung without intermission, and you could hear a pin drop during the quiet transitions from one movement to the other. The first movement Requiem aeternam started softly, as in a whisper, and then cascaded into the ecclesiastical Kyrie Eleison by the 206 member chorus of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses.

Dies irae followed with the frightful beat of drums from the stage and trumpets from the upper balcony giving the audience that somewhat digital "sound surround" experience; then, baritone Laperriere with his magnificent rendition of the passage Mors stupebit et natura, followed by the dramatic singing of mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, narrating judgement day's Liber scriptus proferetur mesmerized the audience.

This segment was in my opinon the best and most varied as it included a trio and a chorus combination of Dies irae, dies illa...Quid sum miser, then a quartet/chorus rendition of Rex tremendae majestatis followed by a duet of Recordare Jesu pie, and then the remarkable tenor voice of Luc Robert as he sang Ingemisco tanquam reus, and at the end, the tearful and moving Lacrimosa dies illa by the soloists and chorus.

A change of pace with the Sanctus, sung in double chorus, a happy beat, communicated to the audience a sense of hope and a feeling of redemption, followed by the next segments Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna, which prepared the audience for the beautful conclusion Libera me sung magnificently by soprano Barbara Livingstone who is renowned for singing extremely demanding compositions. The chorus accompanied her in the repetitious refrain of Libera me in different tempi and a variety of approaches. Truly amazing indeed!

The CBC Radio Orchestra was spectacular, and conductor Duain Wolfe, currently director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, was fabulous as he conducted the chorus, orchestra, and soloists.

Giuseppe Verdi composed this piece to honour the death anniversary of his idol and personal hero, novelist Alessandro Manzoni.

© 2007 Ed Farolan