Friday, October 19 , 2018, 6:06 pm | Fair 85º


Choral Society Salutes First Responders

Weekend performances of Verdi's 'Requiem' will close the season in style

The Santa Barbara Choral Society will close its 2008-09 season in spectacular style with performances of the Verdi Requiem in the Granada Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Maestro JoAnne Wasserman will conduct the soloists, chorus and an orchestra of nearly 60 instruments, with the Metropolitan Opera’s Eduardo Villa as tenor soloist, along with soprano Erin Wood, mezzo-soprano Cynthia Jansen and basso Michael Gallup.

Any performance of this towering work by such a first-rate ensemble is a significant event. This production gains additional force from two circumstances. For one thing, the Choral Society and the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter are spearheading local efforts to support the Jesusita Fire Relief Fund, and this weekend’s performances of the Requiem will feature a special dedication “to those first responders who contained the fire and maintained public safety.”

In addition to this salute to the emergency crews, the Choral Society wants to express public solidarity with what, by the oddest of coincidences, turns out to be a simultaneous performance of the same work on the same day — in the Czech Republic to commemorate the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Terezin, outside Prague. The concert will be dedicated to the memory of the prisoners there who performed the same work during their imprisonment.

In America, we call it the Verdi Requiem, but in Europe, and especially in Italy, it is known as the Manzoni Requiem, with or without a composer’s credit. The immediate, compelling occasion for the composition was the death on May 22, 1873, of Alessandro Manzoni, author of I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), easily the most important 19th century Italian novel written by an Italian. (The most important 19th century Italian novel written by a non-Italian was, of course, Stendahl’s The Charterhouse of Parma.)

Verdi, who worshipped Manzoni, put it even more emphatically in a letter to a friend: “You know how deep is my admiration for this man who, in my opinion, has written not only the greatest book of our epoch, but one of the greatest books ever to emerge from the human brain.” The first performance of the Requiem took place on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s death.

For those who have never heard the Manzoni Requiem, I can only say what Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes said to Dick Cavett when the latter confessed he had not read Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude: “How I envy you, with that joy still to come!”

Ticket prices start at $20. Call the Granada box office at 805.899.2222.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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