The Helena Symphony continues SEASON 63 on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center with Giuseppe Verdi’s epic and operatic Requiem featuring over 120 voices, 70 players, and 4 nationally-acclaimed soloists. With a true “rags to riches” life story, Verdi’s career paralleled the struggle for Italian geographical and political unification and independence and became not only a symbol for Italy, but also the model for other composers linked with their national identity. Verdi ensured his lasting success with the opera Nabucco and went on to compose box office hits including Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Macbeth, Otello, Aida, La Forza del Destino, and Falstaff – becoming Italy’s most famous, wealthiest, and most successful composer.
With only a few non-operatic works, it makes sense that Verdi’s operatic skill comes to the fore in his Requiem, and some even referred to it as an “opera for the church.” A master of dramatic art and devotee to Shakespeare, Verdi took pride in capturing the theatrical essence in his works. Even though Verdi was essentially an agnostic (some even suggest an atheist) and although Verdi never intended the work to be used liturgically, he captures the drama of the Latin text as brilliantly as any of his operas. In many ways, the Requiem is the most dramatic text Verdi ever set to music – from the terrifying descriptions of the end of the world to the urgent pleas for deliverance. Though a Requiem is meant to honor the triumph of heaven over death, Verdi’s colossal work is more concerned with the fate of the living that fear death and with a begging for freedom from the chains of condemnation.
In addition to the Helena Symphony Chorale, Wyoming’s 40-voice Gillette Chamber Singers joins the large chorus for the performance. “Verdi composed some of the most difficult solo parts in this work,” explains Music Director Allan R. Scott. “They are as demanding as an opera role and require some large and virtuosic voices.” An audience favorite, Soprano Diana McVey returns, having recently perform Puccini’s La Bohème last season with the HSO. Other soloists include critically-acclaimed Mezzo Soprano Teresa Buchholz, Tenor Peter Scott Drackley, and Baritone John Green.
The premiere performance of the Requiem on 22 May 1874 at the Church of San Marco in Milan could not contain all who wanted to get in, and, although the audience reportedly seemed profoundly moved, the prohibition of applause in church gave them no way to show appreciation. Three days later a second performance was scheduled at the La Scala Opera House where several ovations took place and the work was almost immediately scheduled for performances in London, Vienna, and Paris.
Operatic in scope, Verdi’s exceptional melodic inventiveness and ability to capture the dramatic have caused some to question the sincerity of Verdi’s Requiem or at least the suitability of the work as sacred music. “Attempting to understand or even hear Verdi’s Requiem as a religious work or worse, a liturgical work, really mistakes the point and therefore the brilliance of Verdi’s Requiem,” explains Maestro Scott. “Verdi intended his Requiem as a monument to a great man, not as a liturgical work or even funeral mass, and Verdi succeeded beyond all expectation, and essentially left us his greatest ‘opera’.”
Tickets can be purchased ($52-$12 plus a $5 transaction fee) online at www.helenasymphony.org, by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or visiting the Symphony Box Office located on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Season tickets for the 2018-2019 Season are also on sale now!