A week ago, Tatiana Serjan was dripping in decadence and depravity as Riccardo Muti’s Lady Macbeth, in the concert version of Verdi’s opera with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. This week, she’s had to recast herself with an entirely different dramatic intention. Where Verdi had indicated that Lady Macbeth be “rough, harsh, and gloomy,” his soprano writing in the Requiem seems more aligned with one of his operatic heroines. This soprano is feminine, vulnerable, and appropriately wretched at times (it is about sinners, after all); not unlike Violetta she also has a healthy amount of backbone.
The liturgy in Verdi’s time, as with Mozart or dozens of others who have set the requiem mass, is full of fire and brimstone. God is vengeful and terrifying. But it doesn’t end there, according to Maestro Muti, and his understanding of this requiem: “If I believe that a superior entity has created me with all my faults, he must forgive me because He also has the responsibility of my life.” In other words, Verdi places the soprano before God, to plead for, or even demand mercy. To perform this music, according to the Maestro, one benefits from taking the viewpoint of an Italian Catholic.
Thursday marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi. In celebration, WFMT will bring you a live webcast of the Verdi Requiem performed by Maestro Muti with Ms. Serjan, the CSO and Chorus, and other soloists. The webcast begins at 7:15 PM, the concert at 7:30 PM. WFMT will air Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin at its normal time of 7:00 PM. Bill is marking the Verdi anniversary with a two-week series on the Italian master. But you don’t have to choose! BOTH will be available for on-demand listening on wfmt.com. For Exploring Music, click here.