Barenboim conducts Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ in Monte-Carlo

Giuseppe Verdi by Bice Lombardini – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Barenboim leads the Monte-Carlo Opera Chorus and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic in a Choral Concert featuring the Messa da requiem by Giuseppe Verdi, with guest artists Marina Rebeka, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Michael Spyres and Ildar Abdrazakov.

Among the most well-known settings of the Catholic funeral mass, this masterpiece by Verdi was composed in 1868 for the first anniversary of the death of the greatly admired poet Alessandro Manzoni, a firm supporter of Italian reunification – as was Verdi. The work was inspired by a requiem, on which Verdi had collaborated in honour of Gioachino Rossini. This requiem was however never performed.

Verdi had written the final movement, Libera me, and although he did not use the exact version of it as written for Rossini, he did retain the spirit of the work. The premiere of the Messa da requiem – conducted by the composer – was held at the church of San Marco in Milan, on 22nd May, 1874 – a year after Manzoni’s death. This stirring homage to the Creator was a resounding success. The Requiem was subsequently performed at La Scala, Milan, followed by performances in Paris, New York, London and Vienna. For the English premiere on 15 May 1875, Verdi presented a new version of the Liber scriptus (Sequence) whereby instead of a fugue for choir and orchestra, a solo for the mezzo-soprano was introduced – the version that we know today.

Internationally acclaimed Daniel Barenboim was initially a solo pianist, regularly touring the United States, Europe, South America, Australia and the Far East. He made his conducting debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London in 1967, was chief conductor of the Orchestre de Paris and made his debut as an opera conductor at the 1973 Edinburgh Festival. He frequently led the Bayreuth Festival, was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was for many years General Music Director of Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, and Music Director at Teatro alla Scala, Milan. In 2000 the Staatskapelle Berlin voted him conductor-in-chief for life.

Perhaps one of Barenboim’s finest achievements was in 1999 with the establishment – together with Palestine literary scholar Edward Said – of the West-Eastern Divan Workshop which brought together young people from Israel and Arab countries to make music, thereby promoting coexistence and intercultural dialogue. As the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the ensemble today performs across Europe, the United States and Asia.

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka is well known for her interpretation of the bel canto repertoire, as well as for music from the Baroque era and Verdi heroines, through to the works of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. A regular guest at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and opera houses, Ms Rebeka will this season be appearing in the Messa da requiem with the Munich Philharmonic, as Mathilde in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at Teatro alla Scala, as Lucrezia Contarine in Verdi’s Il Due Foscari in Piacenza, Italy, and again performs in the Messa da requiem at both Teatro alla Scala and at L’auditori in Barcelona.

Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk has been hailed as a magnificent interpreter of Verdian roles. She has a repertoire which includes the roles of Azucena in Il trovatore, Princess Eboli in Don Carlo, Amneris in Aïda, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Federica in Luisa Miller, Preziosilla in La forza del destino and the mezzo-soprano solo in the Requiem. Still to come this year are performances in the title role of Puccini’s Turandot at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Princess Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Teatro alla Scala, and Amneris in Verdi’s Aida at Teatro Verdi del Salerno.

Baritenor Michael Spyres – described by Opera as “A tenor who has the world at his feet” – has a wide-ranging repertoire. His career has taken him from Baroque to Classical to 20th century music, while he has become an expert within the bel canto repertoire and French Grand Opera.  Most recently he has appeared in Verdi’s Messa da requiem at the Volks Oper in Berlin, and in Mahler’s Song of the Earth with the Wiener Symphoniker. Following this appearance in Monte-Carlo, he takes the role of Erik in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at the Staatsoper Hamburg, a concert appearance with Joyce DiDonato at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the title role in Wagner’s Lohengrin at Opera National de Rhin.

Bass Ildar Abdrazakov has become a firm favourite at the Metropolitan Opera, and he is a regular visitor to the Paris National Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. The Independent refers to him as a “sensational bass … who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. This current season includes appearances as Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Monte-Carlo Opera, he will participate in the Gala Verdiano at the Ravenna Festival, appear as Mustafa in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri at Opernhuis Zurich, and another performance in Verdi’s Messa da requiem at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

Daniel Barenboim leads the soloists, and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus (director Stefano Visconti) in a performance of Verdi’s Messa da requiem at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 2nd November, 2023. Tickets may be booked online, and further information is available on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

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