This weekend’s Santa Barbara Symphony performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” features a vast choral group culled from around Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara Symphony, Verdi’s Requiem
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, 3 p.m., Sunday
Where: The Granada, 1216 State St.
Tickets start at $29
Information: 899-2222, www.thesymphony.org
In the Santa Barbara Symphony’s 65th season, the high points and overall character of the program implies that this august organization is anything but retiring. Among those highlights was an all-Stravinsky concert last fall, including the too-rarely played “Rite of Spring.” Last month’s “orchestra goes to the movies” event boasted live orchestral/choral accompaniment to the popular (and controversial) Milos Forman film “Amadeus,” which famously concludes with dying Mozart working feverishly (literally) to finish his Requiem.
Now comes the grand Verdi moment of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s season. This weekend finds the orchestra, led by maestro Nir Kabaretti, taking on the challenge and profundity of Verdi Requiem, the famed opera composer’s epic and heralded liturgical masterpiece. Whereas the musicians and vocalists were somewhat dwarfed and made to play second fiddle at last month’s “Amadeus Live” program, the Granada stage will be overflowing with live human musical presence on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Memorial resonances are deeply etched in this “Messa da Requiem,” a singular non-operatic Verdi score, created in homage to a friend, the heroic Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni. Processing his grief in musical terms, and in the process creating one of the best-known Requiems in the classical repertoire, Verdi premiered his work a year after Manzoni’s 1873 death, in Milan’s San Marco Basilica.
Santa Barbara music aficionados have been graced with Verdi operas on the Granada stage, courtesy of Opera Santa Barbara, but his “Requiem” requires voices of a different color and magnitude. All over the County in recent weeks, various choral and vocal groups have been working on and up to this weekend’s Verdi opus—including Santa Barbara Choral Society, Santa Barbara City College choirs, and the newly-formed North County Choir, launched by tire-wine-beer magnate and passionate choral music champion and singer Brooks Firestone.
Soloist roles will be met by soprano Colleen Daly, mezzo-soprano Natascha Petrinsky, tenor Harold Meers, and bass Luca Dall’Amico.
As Maestro Kabaretti explained, “for the Mozart ‘Amadeus Live,’ it was logistically so complicated, with computers and all these kinds of challenges. Verdi Requiem gives us other logistic challenges. This Messa da Requiem by Verdi is one of the most important Requiems every written. It’s one of the largest, and it runs about 85 minutes, with double chorus, big orchestra, offstage trumpets in the ‘Tuba mirum,’ transforming from heaven, four soloist, etc.
“For this particular project, we join forces with three different choruses. We have our core chorus, the Choral Society, with whom we have partnered for many years, under the guidance of JoAnn Wasserman, and we will have choirs joining us from City College, under the leadership of Nathan Kreitzer. And we will have a third chorus, from the North County, and are expecting about 30 people from there. We will have about 150 singers, about 85 musicians, the soloists, and one conductor,” he added with a laugh.
“All of the soloists are experts. Some are friends of mine from Italy. I wanted to make sure we delivered the highest Italian experience as possible.”
On an in-house note, the conductor tipped a hat to the support system of the Symphony organization. “I want to thank (Symphony) management for allowing us to bring singers from other countries,” Mr. Kabaretti stressed. “It’s a complicated process, with work visas and all. If you are the Chicago Symphony, they have maybe ten people just working on visa issues. In our little office, it’s a challenge, but everybody works to make it possible.”
In short, says the conductor, “the Verdi Requiem will be another milestone in our season.”