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Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem
Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Veronica Simeoni (mezzo-soprano), Francesco Meli (tenor), Georg Zeppenfeld (bass), Ballett Zürich, Philharmonia Zürich, Chor und Zusatzchor der Oper Zürich, Marcovalerio Marletta (chorus master), Fabio Luisi (conductor), Christian Spuck (choreographer/stage director), Christian Schmidt (set designer), Emma Ryatt (costume designer), Martin Gebhardt (lighting designer), Paul Smaczny (video producer), Michael Beyer (video director)
Recording: Live at Zurich Opera, Zurich, Switzerland (December 2016) – 153’ (including bonus)
Accentus Music 20392 (or Blu-ray ACC10392) – Dolby Digital 5.1 – Picture format 16:9 NTSC – Region 0 – Booklet in German, English and French – Subtitles in Latin, English, Japanese and Korean – Bonus subtitles in German, English, French and Japanese (Distributed by Naxos of America)

This is an extremely well produced film of a fine performance of an established masterwork given an extra edge with the addition of dance using the talents assembled by one of the world’s finest opera houses. However, there will still be people who find the dance is either a puzzling addition or an unnecessary distraction. I found that Christian Spuck’s choreography - which involves movement for the dancers plus the four soloists plus the enlarged (100-voice) chorus - gave the whole experience an organic result.

The spartan scenery has a raw, grey look, while performers - soloists, chorus and most dancers - are dressed in black. There is no Christian or other imagery. The performance is suffused with a rapt yearning and a striving to overcome - or at least come to terms with - a profound grief. The dance style is expressively modern using classical technique.

The four vocal soloists deserve full praise. They move as part of the community, as it were, but each soars vocally when his or her part comes to the fore, such as Georg Zeppenfeld’s sepulchral Mors stupebit or Francesco Meli in the Agnus Dei.

One musical glitch occurs during the Sanctus, which Fabio Luisi takes at a very fast pace while the chorus, intermingling with dancers, have to execute movements as well. It is no surprise that things go awry for a few measures. There is also a degree of distraction due to a moving floodlight that is manipulated on the stage. The resulting effects, though, enhance the mood.

The bonus feature has a good deal of substance. It is an insightful hour-long documentary, Stepping into the Unknown - Christian Spuck’s production of Verdi’s Requiem, filmed by Jürg Gautschi, following the choreographer from his initial preparation for the staging to its completion. One issue it handles is how a dance work that has been developed in rehearsals with piano accompaniment then adjusts to the presence of the orchestral conductor who will have very firm ideas about tempos. “Fabio is the boss” states the choreographer. There seems to have been a terrific sense of esprit de corps throughout the company.

Another bonus: the booklet is very nicely produced with photos.

ConcertoNet.com also has a laudatory review of a live performance.

Michael Johnson




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