Opera Daily 🎶 — Live Met Opera Broadcast Tonight Of Verdi’s Requiem honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11

Hello friends,

I know our selection for this week is early, but it felt important to share today (Saturday) instead of tomorrow.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Metropolitan Opera is performing Verdi’s Requiem this evening (this will be the first performance inside the Metropolitan Opera House since the March 2020 closure due to the pandemic). The Met’s Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will be conducting the Met Orchestra and Chorus with four soloists: soprano Ailyn Pérez, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Matthew Polenzani, and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The performance will be broadcast at 8pm ET with ballet star Misty Copeland hosting the program from nearby the National September 11 Memorial & Museum site in lower Manhattan. 

In preparation for the performance this evening, I wanted to share a bit about Verdi’s Requiem and send along some listening examples.

What is a Requiem?

A requiem is a liturgy (the ritual used for public worship in churches) used at funerals and memorial services that, over the centuries, composers have set to music in various ways.

Running 1 hour and 30 minutes, Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem is a concert work for four soloists (a soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass), a chorus of 100, and orchestra.

Verdi completed his Messa da Requiem in April 1874 and conducted the first performance on May 22, 1874 at the church of San Marco in Milan. While the Requiem was initially intended to mark the first anniversary of Gioachino Rossini’s death (with the help of 13 different Italian musicians), that plan was scrapped and the final piece of music we hear today was composed by Verdi himself in honor of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist whom Verdi admired. Before the Requiem, Verdi was known exclusively for his operas. It’s no surprise that Verdi brought an operatic flavor to the mass.

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Verdi’s Requiem has 7 sections: “Requiem’, “Dies irae”, “Offertory”, “Sanctus”, “Agnus Dei”, “Lux aeterna” and “Libera me”. “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) is perhaps the best-known passage from any of his non-operatic works (I am sure you can name a couple of movies where you’ve heard it). “Dies Irae” is a medieval Latin poem and one of the most famous melodies of the Gregorian Chant. Its original form is a melody describing Judgment Day, the Christian day when humanity will come before God to receive judgment.

The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl!
How great the tremors there will be,
when the judge comes,
investigating everything strictly!

(English Translation of “Dies Irae”)

🎧 Listening Example (2 minute listen): The Met Orchestra and Chorus performing “Dies Irae” from Verdi's Requiem during the final dress rehearsal (Met Opera, 2017–18 Season)

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Where can you listen tonight/tomorrow?

There will be a free broadcast live tonight at 8pm ET. This varies based upon your timezone, state, and country, so please use these two links (Met Opera and PBS) to confirm when/where you can listen. It looks like the concert will also be available to stream on-demand on the PBS website and app tomorrow.

If you miss this weekend’s performance, here are some recordings of Verdi’s Requiem to enjoy:

  • Verdi’s Requiem featuring conductor Claudio Abbado, soprano Renata Scotto, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and bass Nicolai Ghiaurov (Rome, 1970) (Watch and listen to the full performance)

  • Verdi’s Requiem featuring conductor Ricardo Muti, tenor José Carreras, soprano Jessye Norman, mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa, bass Yevgeny Nesterenko, and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (1983)
    (Listen to the full performance)

  • Verdi’s Requiem featuring conductor Arturo Toscanini, soprano Herva Nelli, mezzo-soprano Fedora Barbieri, tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, bass Cesare Siepi, Robert Shaw Chorale, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra (New York City, Carnegie Hall, 1951) (Listen to the full performance)

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I am grateful for you today.

Thank you for reading (and listening), and “see” you next Sunday,

Michele

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