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Giuseppe Verdi [Source: Wikipedia]
01 Sep 2011

Verdi’s Requiem Closes Grant Park Festival

In its final performances of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus along with guest soloists gave two performances of Verdi’s Requiem.

Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem

Amber Wagner, Soprano; Michaela Martens, Mezzo-Soprano; Michael Fabiano, Tenor; Kyle Ketelsen, Bass. Grant Park Music Festival. Grant Park Orchestra. Grant Park Chorus. Carlos Kalmar, Conductor. William Spaulding, Guest Chorus Director.

Above: Giuseppe Verdi [Source: Wikipedia]


The featured singers were Amber Wagner, soprano, Michaela Martens, mezzo-soprano, Michael Fabiano, tenor, and Kyle Ketelsen, bass. William G. Spaulding was the guest chorus director and the Grant Park Orchestra was conducted by Carlos Kalmar.

The first section of the Requiem was especially effective with Kalmar eliciting moving gestures from the cello section followed by the other strings with a gradually intensifying volume. The Grant Park Chorus set a dignified tone as piano segments alternated with vocal exhortations such as “Exaudi” (“Hear”). Noteworthy was the effect of legato singing so that the pace remained consistent up to the entrance of the soloists in this section. Each of the latter sang an introductory line on “Kyrie eleison” or “Christe eleison” with moving expressiveness. The blending of principal singers and chorus was established here for the balance of the work, so that neither dominated but rather all achieved an ideal synthesis.

The “Dies irae,” or second part, began with appropriate dramatic and percussive force before modulating to a more speculative and quiet section for the chorus. Trumpets were positioned on either side of the chorus above the stage in order to magnify the call to judgment. As the next part for bass and chorus, “Tuba mirum” (“wondrous trumpet”), followed seamlessly, Mr. Ketelsen released declarative and lyrically controlled reminders on “mors” and “natura” (“death” and “nature”). He followed these with a chillingly hushed piano on the repeated “mors” and low bass notes of warning on “stupebit” (“shall be stunned”). In the following section for mezzo-soprano and chorus, “Liber scriptus” (“a written book”), Ms. Martens sang with comparable feeling to announce the judgment. She used her upper register most effectively on words such as “Judex” and “judicetur” while singing a touching melisma on “proferetur” (“will be brought forth”). Between these parts for soloists and chorus Kalmar led the orchestra through reprises of the “Dies irae” motif with carefully measured tempos. In the subsequent appeal for pity shared by the four soloists and chorus Ms. Wagner sang a smoothly descending line punctuated with impressively soaring top notes. Mr. Fabiano’s accompanying soft notes sung on the repetition were equally effective. As a conclusion to this part Ms. Wagner performed the final sequence of “Salva me” with a memorable diminuendo.

In the succeeding “Recordare” duet for the women both Wagner and Martens excelled not only in their individual parts but also in blending their voices, for example, at “Juste judex” (“Righteous judge”). Martens sang here with well chosen vibrato so that her part was rendered with true pathos, while Wagner’s beautifully held pitch on “causa” (“the reason”) added to the prayerful effect. Just as sensitive to communicating text, Fabiano’s moving tenor “Ingemisco” which followed was one of the highlights of this performance. His rising notes on ”Mariam” and “exaudisti” (“you heeded”) were sung with convincing emotional fervor, underlined by ringing top notes directly on pitch for “in parte dextra” (“at Your right hand”). In the “Lacrimosa,” a section in which all four soloists have significant parts, the magnificent lines were produced with sensitivity to the appeal for rest and mercy. Following in the “Offertorio” both tenor and bass included decorative and well executed trills as an emphasis on “offerimus.”

The concluding segments of the Requiem, the “Sanctus,” “Agnus Dei,” and “Libera me” in this performance were significant for the interplay of orchestral and vocal elements. In the “Lux aeterna” the flute solo was distinctly present as Ms. Martens’s rising line was repeated at “lux perpetua luceat eis” (“may eternal light shine on them”). Ms. Wagner’s final solo in “Libera me” was dramatic as well as poignant. Her thrilling high notes resolved into a prayer to end the work with gentle orchestral accompaniment on its final note of supplication. Such a moving performance emphasized the devotional and musical strengths of Verdi’s religious masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

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