Arts & Entertainment

Symphony takes on a masterpiece in 'Requiem'

Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem has been called "an opera in ecclesiastical robes," and most music connoisseurs would agree the dramatic character of the piece makes it operatic.

But it's the passion and beauty of the orchestration, double chorus and extremely difficult solos that make it a work of art, said vocalist Mary Lou Gnoza.

Requiem is a 90-minute choral and orchestral masterpiece with extremely difficult solos for soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, she said.

"It is literally the Roman Catholic Latin Mass of the dead, and remains the most often performed (music composition) by choral societies, although seldom as a real funeral Mass," Gnoza said.

"Some say the creation of this Requiem had the hand of God directly on it as it plays to the very soul of mankind and reaches deep into our emotions surrounding death."

The Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and Mid-Columbia Symphony will perform Requiem at 8 p.m. May 15 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

Justin Raffa, Mastersingers artistic director, has a great respect for Verdi's Requiem that dates back to his college days.

"I was a junior at Westminster Choir College and had the privilege of singing the piece under the baton of international conducting legend Riccardo Muti with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York in 2001," Raffa said. "The following year, I performed the work again at Liberty State Park in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2002, in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York."

But even more than that, Raffa defines Requiem as a profound piece of music that "profoundly increased both my musicianship and humanity at at a critical time in my (musical) development."

The May 15 performance will be the first time he'll have the opportunity to prepare his own choir and act as conductor for this historic piece of music, he added.

Originally, Giuseppe Verdi suggested a group of Italian composers collaborate on a requiem to honor Gioachino Rossini, who died in 1868. But those 13 composers eventually lost interest in the project, so Verdi finished it as a tribute to his late friend, Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, Gnoza said.

"Verdi was quite frustrated by the group (of composers), so when (Manzoni) died, he finished it as we know it today," Gnoza said.

Requiem was first performed for the public on the anniversary of Manzoni's death on May 22, 1874.

Tickets are from $20 to $40 and are available at

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;