April 5, 2009

One piece of music you must see before you die; Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem

We all want to be remembered after we depart this world. Weeping relatives, friends to tell of our greatest deeds, and music to rend the souls of those who mourn our passing.

Alessandro Manzoni was perhaps, posthumously, the luckiest and the most unfortunate man to have ever lived. Lucky because Giuseppe Verdi composed his “Manzoni Requiem” in honor of the pivotal Italian novelist, which also makes Manzoni supremely unlucky for what he never heard. The Requiem moves in stages of emotion from awe and elation to joy that cannot be contained. Verdi’s theme for the piece was the Day of Judgment as expressed by the Roman Catholic funeral mass, which he placed in the form of a chorus, trumpets, and drums that have the ability to blow the soul several feet from one’s body. The chorus rises like the building of a tidal surge and releases its voice to thunder across the audience with a wave of passion so deep one must either weep or silently tremble. Colorado Symphony Orchestra produced an inspired performance of the Requiem this past weekend. My wife and I were lucky enough to find ourselves in the front rows facing the chorus. The Requiem has four soloists, a soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass. Arturo Chacon-Cruz, the tenor, made a compelling portrait of sorrow and longing, gripping his music stand will involuntary fervor as he sang:

My prayers are not worthy, but thou, O good one, show mercy, lest I burn in everlasting fire.

That fire was provided from Jonita Lattimore, soprano, a powerful operatic voice and a artist of full form who enacted every line with the complete expression of body and voice. Take a listen to the whole piece below, make sure to make it to the four or five minute mark to get the shaktipat. It will never match a first hand experience but with any luck you will hear the essence one of Verdi’s most beautiful works that cannot be described as anything less than holy, in the sense of being completely “other” from any mundane experience.

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