Verdi’s awe-inspiring Requiem lends the drama of opera to a deeply personal expression of grief.
Think Giuseppe Verdi, think opera – Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida… He wrote almost nothing else. But among the masterpieces for the stage is an “opera in ecclesiastical vestments”, his Messa da Requiem. Although it follows the shape of a Requiem mass, Verdi never intended this powerful and moving music for church use but as a public memorial to one of Italy’s national heroes, the poet Manzoni. The Requiem is both deeply personal and spectacular in effect. And Verdi sets the scene with an unerring theatrical instinct: heartfelt outpourings of grief (“Lacrymosa”), transcendent devotion (“Lux æterna”) and – when he reaches the almost primal moment of the “Dies irae” (Day of Wrath) – sheer terror as more than 100 instrumentalists and 120 singers thunder into the hall.