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Verdi’s “Opera in Church Garb” at the Philharmonie: Call for help from the ruins – culture

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It is the most dramatic moment in Western sacred music, the “Dies irae” that follows the first whispered choral words almost without intonation in Verdi’s “Requiem”, the calls for men to self-discipline in “Te decet” and the collective evocations of the “Kyrie”. . Cascades of martial sound, lightning, fortissimo detonations, total invasion: Ernst Bloch spoke of explosive explosions and bottomless falling screams.

The Berlin Philharmonic and the Rundfunkchor, under the direction of Daniel Barenboim, will also ring in your ears. As soon as the fury subsided, the brass sang their infernal “Tuba mirum”. Probably no one at the sold-out Philharmonie who isn’t thinking of Ukraine right now.

Death is incomprehensible, the collapse of all meaning. Giuseppe Verdi elevates it to a collapse of the senses. He three times he opens the gorge of hell in his funeral mass, which is either insulted as a “church-dressed opera” and “liturgical freak” or celebrated for its theatricality and qualities of action and suspense.

But the fury does not lose its human proportions. The composer developed the work, which premiered in 1874 as a requiem for Verdi’s patriotic comrade-in-arms, Alessandro Manzoni, from the core of the finale “Libera me”, which he had previously contributed to the communal mass at the funeral of his colleague Rossini. .

Funeral music mixed with the pain of the heart and the conflict of the soul, with the shame of those who watch helplessly and have assumed the blame. This is also disturbingly topical these days.

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Stuttering, hesitating, sobbing violins, pleas for forgiveness: the choir’s a cappella supplications are reminiscent of the Gregorian Liturgy of the Hours. The quartet of soloists repeatedly plays intimate and unprotected tones, Susanne Bernhard with her somewhat nervous, then increasingly risky, soulful first soprano, the tenor Michael Spyres, who is particularly convincing in the reserved and lyrical passages, Tareq Nazmis with sound bass, a times ruthless. All profess humility, shame. Mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaya reminds us of the Last Judgment with Cassandra’s calls to her in “Liber scriptus”, to Stefan Schweigert’s plaintive bassoon. A tragedy of fear and apocalypse.

Violin virtuoso Lisa Batiashvili will be the first concertmaster

Due to illness-related absences, all four soloists stepped in at short notice, Bernhard and Nazmi making their Philharmonie debut that evening. They wished for a little more support from Barenboim, who coaches in relief, possibly because of his back problem. He quite loosely holds the gigantic apparatus with more than 150 participants together on the podium.

[Verdis “Requiem” wird nochmals an diesem Sonnabend (19 Uhr) und am Sonntag (20 Uhr) in der Philharmonie aufgeführt. Es gibt wenige Restkarten.]

Perhaps no more is needed with this explicit masterpiece, performed by top-tier musicians, and none other than Lisa Batiashvili as a guest on the chair of the first concertmaster, the Georgian, who harshly condemned Putin’s war of aggression and played at the Maidan in 2015. , performs on Tuesday at the DSO Ukraine Solidarity Concert as a soloist with the Philharmonic.

And yet, this evening lacks that final inner intensity and dimension of depth that can be ripped from “Requiem”. Especially since Verdi rejects the tranquility of eternal light behind the restless choral fugue. Set Me Free: A cry for help through the rubble, this is the end.


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