Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Mercoledi Musciale

When I first heard the Verdi Requiem on the radio back in 1959 and not being terribly impressed - sorry I was an opera snob fan and wasn't going to go for any of this religious stuff.  Looking at the archives at the Met now I realize that it was actually a pretty special occasion - it was the last performance there conducted by Bruno Walter.  It was also the afternoon when Zinka Milanov had to retire after the several minutes and was replaced by Heidi Krall.  But even with such excitement I turned a "blind ear" to it.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Fast forward to the 1970s when I had begun to actually listen to the Requiem and become familiar with the work - its form and structure, its antecedents and its subtleties.  I finally ended up with three recordings of it and have since acquired three more on iTunes; and in the past three years I have heard it performed four times.   Though none of those performances have reached anywhere nearing I cam away from each one having heard something new and wonderful or in a new and wonderful way.

The most recent performance was here at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.  The NAC Orchestra has grown under Pinkas Zuckerman and though I may not always enjoy his style of conducting I have to admire his programming skills.  As with the three performances I saw in Rome - Santa Cecilia twice and La Scala once - the chorus at the NAC were the stars of the evening.  I mentioned to my friend Ben, who is in the chorus, that I had never realized how strong the Gregorian strain is in the choral music - and he tells me that chorus master extraordinare Duain Wolfe had worked on archiving the sound of chant for much of their rehearsal time.  A difficult effect had been suburbly realized 

But perhaps the most difficult task in any performance of the Requiem is assembling a quartet of soloists who can do justice to the music Verdi allotted to his soprano, mezzo, tenor and bass.  And in a day and age when real Verdi singers are a rarity it must be even more difficult.

Though Jon Vickers was never a Verdi tenor in the truest sense of the word in this 1970 recording with Sir John Barbirolli he brings a passion and intensity to the Ingemisco that has yet to be matched.

I groan as a guilty one,
and my face blushes with guilt;
spare the supplicant, O God.

You, who absolved Mary Magdalene,
and heard the prayer of the thief,
have given me hope, as well.

My prayers are not worthy,
but show mercy, O benevolent one,
lest I burn forever in fire.

Give me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
placing me on your right hand.

At the risk of sounding like one of those old opera fans who bemoaning the passing of a golden age - they just don't make them like that anymore.  And I do apologize that it cuts out just as the Confutatis maledictis begins but I'd have to post another 5 minutes and that would lead to the Lacrymosa dies illa and then I'd feel I had to add the rest and ...  well you get the drift. Funny how much I love this "non-operatic" Verdi now.

06 June -  1813: War of 1812: Battle of Stoney Creek – A British force of 700 under John Vincent defeats an American force two times its size.
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1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hey, my great-great-great grandfather Samuel Green was killed at the Battle of Stoney Creek. Mortally wounded, actually. He died about a month later. He was a local farmer in the area who had joined the Militia in order to repel the American invaders.