2016年3月9日 星期三

Teatro Regio Torino's Messa da Requiem of Verdi (都靈皇家劇院的威爾第"安魂彌撒曲")

I haven't heard very many Requiems with a full orchestra and a massed chorus. I heard one recently. It was Verdi's Messa da Requiem. The Catholic Requiem Mass is one dedicated to the memory of a member of the congregation who recently passed away.

The usual Catholic Mass consist of 4 parts: viz. the Introductory rites ("Introit" or entry) during which the priest will sprinkle holy water and bless the faithful. In a Requiem Mass, the bier holding the body is placed close to the sanctuary of the church with the feet of the deceased towards the altar but a deceased priest's feet are placed away from the altar, to recall their relative positions when he was still alive and celebrating Mass. This is followed by the Sequence Dies Iræ, ( Days of Wrath) which speaks of the day of judgment in fearful terms and which then appeals to Christ for mercy.

This is  followed immediately by the Penitential Rites in which the faithful will have to say a  prayer confessing that they have sinned (accompanied by psalms of "Kyrie" (Mercy) in which the faithful implores God to have mercy on their souls).

Then before the words of God from the bible is read, the faithful will sing psalms in praise of the glory of God ("Gloria") after which  two passages from the Holy Bible is read( the first reading will be from one of the 4 new testament gospel and the second from the "Acts of the Apostles). After that, the faithful will then proclaim their joy in having heard the words of God by singing the "Allelulia" (Praise Yahweh or the Savior) or the acclamation of the gospel and the priest will deliver what's called a " homily" explaining the significance of Biblical passages just read.

After that, the faithfuls will have to publicly profess their basic Catholic beliefs by reciting the Credo ( the Nicene Creed containing the most essential dogmatic teachings of the Church).Then follows the "Offertorium" (Offering) or song of offering gifts to God. Then begins the formal celebration of the Holy Eurcharist  (Body or the Lord) in which the priest will call upon the faithful to lift up their hearts to God and then all will proclaim the mystery of faith that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again or that when they eat the bread and drink his blood, that Jesus will as Christ the savior, have by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead in his resurrection, have freed and will continue to free man from all sins. Then everyone will recite the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say, viz. the famous "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father" (Pater Nostra") and then the priest will in accordance with the Scriptures, do what Christ did :viz. bless the notional "body of Christ" (in the form of a wafer of unleavened bread) and the "blood" of Christ" ( in the form of wine") (collectively "the holy communion").

All will then sing the "Sanctus" (Holy), in which they proclaim three times, the word "holy" in praise of the glory, might and power of God and cry out "Hosanna (Praise) in the highest" to welcome the coming of Jesus Christ on earth, and the priest will then invoke the Holy Spirit to bless and enter into the prepared "bread" and "wine" and then give thanks to God for doing so and share them amongst those faithfuls who wish to do so. Whilst the faithfuls are receiving the "Holy Eucharist" (Holy Body or the Lord's Supper), a "Communion Song/Communion Antiphon" will be sung.

After that, the priest will make relevant church announcement.  In a Requiem Mass, he'll mention the name of the deceased and ask all to pray for the departed soul. The priest will again sprinkle holy water on the bier and sing Libera me, Domine (free/save me, Lord) But according to theology, when he does this  "absolution" (ordinarily taking away the stain of sin but here it doesn't really have the effect of absolving the dead from sins committed, as in the case of the sacrament of Penance or commonly called the "Confession" done when the deceased was still alive but is intended only to  ensure him a safe passage to Purgatory where the dead souls will have to do penance there for their sins until they have completely cleansed themselves and then ascend to heaven on the day of judgement (Dies Irae) when according to Catholic theology, all the dead will rise again and their body resurrected before going to heaven or being condemned to burn in everlasting hell fire.

Then follows the concluding rites in which the priest will bless all who have come and ask them go in the peace of Christ and all will give thanks to God for allowing them to participate in the feast of having found faith in God. During this part, a Closing/Recessional song will be sung or some organ music played. When the coffin is carried away from the church, the priest will sing In paradisum (in paradise). 

The most famous requiem is the Requiem in D minor (K 626) partly completed by Mozart up to the sequence of Dies Irae in the Lacrymosa movement and the Offertorium at the time of his death in December 1791 and later completed for him by others like Sussmayr. It was none the less a magnificent piece. There is an solemn elegance in it which is hard to match.

Another is Dvorák's Requiem in Bb minor.

The third is by the French composer Gabriel Fauré. also in D minor, a much quieter affair

The one I heard recently is that by Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901), commonly acknowledged to be a most dramatic work in that the silent passages are really silent. But it contains a truly explosive Dies Iraes. it was performed for us by the Teatro Regio Torino under the baton of a hot Milano conductor Gianandrea Nosesa, named  as Musical America's 2015 "Conductor of the Year". He brought with him both the Teatro Regio Torino's orchestra and its chorus whose ladies appear in a beautiful vermillion color shawl over a black dress.  The sequence of this requiem are as follows:

1. Requiem and Kyrie with soloists including inter alia the Tenor Giorgio Berrugi and chorus
2. Sequence: Dies Irae with soloists and chorus
3. Offertorium: Domine Jesus Christie by the Soloists
4. Sanctus by the double chorus
5. Agnus Dei (lamb of God) by the Soprano Erika Grimaldi Mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona and Chorus
6. Communion:  Lux Aeterna by the Mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona and Bass Michele Petrusi
7. Responsorium: Libera Me Domine by the Soprano Erika Grimaldi and Chorus

The piece was composed for four soloists, a double choir and orchestra by Giuseppe Verdi. for Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist who wrote Il Pormessi sposi (The Betrothed)  whom Verdi admired and performed in 1874 in San Marco Church in Milan at the first anniversary of Manzoni's death although earlier the piece was originally intended for the death of the composer Rossini.

I must confess I have never heard a Requiem as powerful as the one I heard in this concert a few days ago. This is the Requiem.

The soloists and the chorus of the Teatro Regio Torino were uniformly excellent. The sound of the orchestra seldom overshadows those from the soloists, a most delicate operation to perform but by and large, they did it and the result is an ear opening and unforgettable musical experience. It seems that the sounds I heard that evening are still ringing in my ears even as I am now writing.  I like in particular the voice of the soprano whose quite "normal" size initially left me a little wary before she opened her mouth. But once she did, all such doubts seem totally unnecessary and we could really sit down and concentrate on simply enjoying the music. It was not only sheer joy to listen to the music, it's also a most uplifting and in a sense terrifying experience. Is that not what Edmund Burke meant when he said that the sublime is always tinged with an inarticulate sense of awe and of a certain indescribable terror?

Listening to the massed sound of human voices, each with its own peculiar mix of sonic texture and of the various musical instruments, each with its own timbre when they sing or play the same notes at the same frequency, in isolation and sometimes in combination somehow make us realize that whilst human beings are separate from each other and from the world, we also share the same joys and eventually the same sorrows, that we are also in a sense one with each other and with all of creation, that all must participate in the same ultimate fate, that one day, all must die and go back to whence we came, to that primordial silence from which we once emerged into existence. But what kept the terror from being too overwhelming is the esthetic distance created by the comforting thought that it's just art, something located in space and time, and just an ephemeral artistic experience, an art in and of time  and not really reality. Is that not what the Greeks sages meant when they told us that art is cathartic?

The lyrics of the Responsorium: Libera Me Domine (Free Me Lord)  are worth pondering:

Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death in that awful day
when the heavens and earth shall be moved
when Thou shall come to judge the world by fire

I am seized with trembling and I fear

the time when the trial shall approach
and the wrath to come, when the heavens
and the earth shall be moved

A day of wrath

that day of calamity and woe
A great day and bitter indeed

Rest eternal grant them

O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them