SA Dante Society, 17 August 2015 At the Italian Centre on Monday evening the Society was treated to an early taste of Verdi’s tempestuous, mighty and dramatic requiem mass. This will be performed with full chorus and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on 26 and 28 August, as conducted by Timothy Sexton. Maestro Dr Joseph Talia OAM gave a lucid and learned backgrounder, virtually extemporaneously, as to the sources, anxieties and influences on Verdi in the creation of this unique liturgical music, operatic in style and inspired by the life and death of Alessandro Manzoni, whom he revered. Verdi grappled with the concept of faith and eternal damnation, brilliantly realised in the startling and formidable working of the medieval poem, the Dies Irae. Verdi has been called the Garibaldi of Opera and Dr Talia explained that the Requiem was indeed, to some extent, an act of patriotism. Teresa La Rocca then gave some delightful musical examples, including the Agnus Dei, and some fiendishly difficult portions that would test a castrato. Brahms, who knew a thing or two about music, called the Requiem a work of genius.
Christopher Stone rounded out the evening with some interesting conceptual observations on the work, noting in 2006 the Requiem had been staged dramatically in Berlin, and that (despite the fact it is not strictly ecclesiastical music), it evokes, in the Dies Irae (The Day of Wrath) a genuinely terrifying effect. Christopher pointed out that the State Opera’s tagline for the production is “Once heard, never forgotten” and he recalled the effect upon him of hearing it for the first time, in a performance at Florence, an appropriate city under the circumstances, where D’Annunzio, after Verdi’s death, placed him on a pedestal beside Dante, among others. The chorus is busy preparing for the Requiem and will also be appearing in the choral pieces of Gounod’s Faust, the production seen recently by TVC in Sydney, thus alternating on consecutive nights twixt the romance of Italian and French. Dante Society Members and others are encouraged to see both.