School of Music presents Verdi's Requiem

(L-R) Richard Drews, tenor; Talea Schroeder Bloch, soprano; Adrienne Dickson, mezzo-soprano; and Charles Robert Austin, bass
(L-R) Richard Drews, tenor; Talea Schroeder Bloch, soprano; Adrienne Dickson, mezzo-soprano; and Charles Robert Austin, bass

School of Music presents Verdi's Requiem

calendar icon09 Apr 2013    

Around 350 members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and combined choruses will perform Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem on Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lied Center for Performing Arts in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students/seniors and are available from the Lied Center Box Office at (402) 472-4747 or (800) 432-3231.

“The Verdi Requiem is one of maybe four or five of the most brilliant and most outstanding choral-orchestra works ever conceived,” said Professor and Director of Orchestras Tyler White, who will conduct the piece. “It’s also a piece that has not been heard in this location for a very long time, so that, in itself, makes it really extraordinary.”

The piece was last performed at UNL in 1968 in the Coliseum.

“The Verdi Requiem should always be one of those ‘wow’ events in any musical culture,” White said. “It is a piece of such emotional intensity and grandeur of architecture that it’s an awe-inspiring experience.”

Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was Italy’s greatest operatic composer, and Requiem, his monumental setting of the Latin Requiem Mass, has often been hailed as “Verdi’s greatest opera.”

“You have all of these different aspects coming together—all the emotional power, all the cosmic power, all the drama, the sense of ancient rituals unfolding before you and the whole drama of human history,” White said. “Why wouldn’t you want to come to that?”

Photo of Tyler White
Tyler White

The seven sections of the piece correspond to parts of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. The piece begins with the Introduction and Kyrie, which open with a tender expression of basic human grief at the concept of grief and a prayer for mercy and forgiveness.

The second and longest section of the piece is titled “Dies irae,” based on a 13th century poem that describes the end of the world and the judgment of the world.

“The apocalyptic subject matter lets Verdi give full reign to his most cataclysmic expressions. But at the same time, those huge expressions of calamity and terror and destruction are then balanced by really quite deep and perceptive explorations of human guilt, human feelings of guilt and desire—the desire for forgiveness, the desire for longing, but also just sadness at the end of the world,” White said. “And then looking forward to the ultimate mystery of what happens at the end of the world.”

The remainder of the Requiem includes shorter movements, including the Offertory and Sanctus movements. The final movement, “Libera me,” is a return to the idea of judgment of the world, but on a personal basis.

“The Dies irae or loud music returns, but then there’s also a substantial fugal movement of really climactic proportions before the entire piece ends with great emotional candor and spiritual honesty at the question of no one really knows what happens at the end, and of course, you hope. So the piece really ends on this profound note of both comfort and questioning at the same time.”

Vocal soloists

Four vocal soloists at the performance will include School of Music graduate student Talea Schroeder Bloch, soprano, and three prominent School of Music alumni known to local audiences: Richard Drews, tenor; Charles Robert Austin, bass; and Adrienne Dickson, mezzo-soprano.

Drews has been called “a tenor of sweet, piercing clarity” by Opera News. A winner of the Arthur E. Sullivan Grant, WGN Auditions on the Air and the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he has sung more than 30 leading tenor roles in opera houses in the U.S., French West Indies, Canada, Italy and Germany.

A native of Nebraska, Austin is a former Marine Corps officer and Cobra helicopter pilot, who is acclaimed internationally as a rising bass-baritone star in the Wagnerian realm. His operatic repertoire includes more than 100 roles, and he has performed at the most important venues in North America.

Dickson received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in music theatre from UNL, her M.M. in opera performance from the Boston Conservatory and her D.M.A. in vocal performance from UNL. Her operatic roles include Sister Helen in “Dead Man Walking” and the Duchess of Plaza-Toro in “The Goldoliers.” She is currently teaching voice, vocal pedagogy and diction for both Concordia University and York College.

Bloch is pursuing her D.M.A. in vocal performance in the School of Music. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Nebraska Wesleyan University in music, theater and history education. She received her M.M. from UNL. Her recent roles at UNL include Alexandria in the fall opera “O Pioneers!” and Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro.”

Performance reflects strength of the department

The UNL Symphony did their first sight-reading of the piece just before Spring Break in March.

“Not everyone knows it, so I’m certainly trying to introduce them to it in as sensitive way as I can. The ones who do know it are psyched,” White said. “The piece has some of the most brilliant and powerful brass writing anywhere, so the brass players are enormously excited about that. But the piece is filled with so many moments of great lyricism and delicacy. Verdi, with the mind of a great operatic composer, really beautifully balances those moments of crushing power with the moments of great delicacy and very intimate feeling.”

This will be White’s first time conducting the piece, and he is looking forward to it coming together.

“With the other large-scale works and whenever I conduct a large opera, I often find myself, when conducting in the presence of musical genius of this order, there will be a moment in the performance when I think, ‘This is what life’s about.’ It’s being in the thick of it—in the heat of this fire of creation,” White said. “And since this is a piece that lends itself to that quality of the fire of creation and on such a grand scale, I think it’s feeling it all come together, feeling it all begin to merge and turn into the artistic whole that’s in my mind and in my inner experience.”

Performing this work also reflects the growth of the School of Music in the last several decades, White said.

“Our ability to perform this now reflects not just a recent growth, but also the tradition of what music at UNL is, and the way that tradition gets fostered and built upon from one generation to the next,” White said. “So bringing this work back to UNL is a step toward building further upon the musical traditions we have here and to make them not just more lasting, but even broader and deeper in their roots to the community.”