When Giuseppe Verdi's great friend, the poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, died on May 22, 1873, the composer had already begun his self-imposed retirement from the opera house after the premiere of Aida. Too grief-stricken to even attend his friend's funeral, Verdi proposed to Milanese officials that he write a requiem mass to honor Manzoni. The officials readily agreed and Verdi's Requiem was performed the next year on the one year anniversary of Manzoni's death.
Verdi's Requiem does what few works in music history can claim--combine the dramatic emotion of opera with unparalleled symphonic writing, sonic magnificence, and gorgeous vocal solos. Oddly, Verdi was not particularly religious, yet he was able to channel his agnosticism into a work that follows the Roman Catholic mass in a form that would honor his friend in the way he knew best.
For dramatic effect, Verdi, the operatic master, uses four trumpets, placed out in the hall to evoke the idea of heavenly calls to the departed. Since Verdi was writing for singers he knew personally, the music for the soloists and choir is demanding and virtuosic.
The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performs Verdi's masterpiece on Thursday and Friday evenings this week at the Tennessee Theatre. Joining the orchestra will be the Knoxville Choral Society along with guest soloists--soprano Cherie Valaray, mezzo-soprano Bracha Kol, bass-baritone Stephen Morscheck, and tenor David Katz. Lucas Richman conducts.
Performance time is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: call 865-291-3310 or online at www.knoxvillesymphony.com