Story by Abigale Racine, Culture Editor
Photo courtesy of MLive
Those familiar with the practices of the Catholic church or those fond of the Latin language understand that a requiem or a requiem mass is essentially a mass for the dead, the word “requiem” meaning “rest/repose.” This mass is offered as a celebration for the repose of the soul(s) deceased. It is often practiced as a funeral, although it is not always necessarily conducted or designed for that manner.
Traditionally the music played at these celebrations are also called requiems. Over time, other songs that target the topic of death and mourning, without possessing religious context or liturgical relevance, have been referred to requiems as well.
During the weekend of Halloween, the Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Symphony presented REQUIEM by Giuseppe Verdi at the DeVos Performance Hall. This historical opera is separated into two acts and features only four soloists: a soprano, a mezzo-soprano, a tenor, and a bass.
After years spent building a reputation for himself in the musical community, prominent operatic composer and Italian senator Giuseppe Verdi was asked to compose a section for the requiem mass in memory of a fellow composer, Gioachino Rossini. Verdi had completed the project but the performance was canceled. Six years later in May 1874, Verdi had reworked the piece and made it part of a requiem in memory of popular Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, and it premiered in Milan on the anniversary of Manzoni’s death.
The performance became well-known and has since been adapted to various stages. REQUIEM is dramatic, packed with powerful rhythms that were mastered by the talented Grand Rapids Orchestra. A variety of contrasting emotions were captivated by the orchestra and performers. I was unfamiliar with this production going in and not having given much thought to the tile beforehand, I can say I was earnestly surprised to learn that it was the music of a funeral procession. Although I am not a particularly religious person, but it was so beautiful, I can’t help wonder if it would be wrong to ask if they could perform at my own funeral?
The song “Dies irae” was a sweeping epic, featuring impressive trumpet solos as bass singer Andrew Gangestad sang, “Death and Nature shall stand amazed, when all Creation rises again to answer to the Judge.”
Songs of redemption, faith, repentance and everlasting life concentrated much of the production. Another highlight was the last song of the night, soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s solo with “Libera me.” Caballero concluded on a high note, singing, “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.”
Other upcoming performances for the Grand Rapids Opera include the shows Orpheus and Eurydice, Romeo and Juliet, and The Student Prince. Check out these seasonal tickets, get cultured and fulfill that Humanities assignment.
Abigale Racine is a senior studying English, with a focus in journalism. She is the Culture Editor of The Saint and does some freelance work on the side, when she isn’t soaking up the scene that is Grand Rapids.