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Friday, February 19, 2016, 09:02

Requiem for a ruler

By Peter Gordon

Requiem for a ruler
A scene from Simon Boccanegra , brought to Hong Kong by Italy’s Teatro Regio Torino next week.

Ode to a poet

Verdi’s mastery of drama and intense human emotion carries over into his most celebrated devotional work, the Messa da Requiem — usually called just Verdi’s Requiem in English. On March 3 Teatro Regio Torino will perform the piece at HK Cultural Centre under its musical director Gianandrea Noseda.

Erika Grimaldi, Michele Pertusi and tenor Giorgio Berrugi (who also sings in Simon Boccanegra ) return with acclaimed mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona for another performance.

Verdi composed the Requiem in memory of the Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni. Although this is a religious work, it has been called an opera is disguise, arguably as much about men and women as God and Heaven. What raised some eyebrows when it was written now inspires applause. As surprising as it may sound, if one wished to introduce a teenager to classical music, this might be the work. If the 19th century had discovered heavy metal, the pounding, terrifying Dies Irae (day of wrath) would be it. The tenor solo, Ingemisco , however, rivals any tenor aria ever written and is often performed as a separate concert piece. Libera me , sung by the soprano, shows her passing through a range of emotions, ending in an extraordinary pianississimo.

Since the Latin of the text has few immediately recognizable words, the singing comes close to pure sound. Yet just as in his operas, Verdi tells a story in the Requiem, although this is a story of pure emotion, stripped of plot.

These two works show Verdi in conversation with both man and Heaven, reflecting on the past, present and uncertain future, and the connection between them. And we get to hear them both in a single week.

If you go

Opera: Simon Boccanegra

Composer: Verdi

Conductor:  Roberto Abbado (Teatro Regio Torino)

Feb 26, 28 and March 1

Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Music: Requiem

Composer: Verdi

Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda (Teatro Regio Torino)

March 3

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

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