La Jolla Symphony & Chorus: 320 musicians will fill the stage for Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ March 17-19

The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) will be joined by four operatic soloists, and two guest choruses when Music Director Steven Schick conducts all in Giuseppe Verdi’s magnificent “Requiem,” for three performances, March 17-19, at Mandeville Auditorium on the UCSD campus.

Now in its 62nd season, the non-profit LJS&C is San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus. Its 100-person orchestra and 120-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites.

Irish-American soprano Ariana Strahl recently made her American debut as Blanche Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire” with Opera San Jose, and has been celebrated as a singer with “fearless, accurate vocalism” by Opera Now.

Mezzo-soprano Victoria Vargas has performed some 15 roles for the Minnesota Opera, as well as performances with Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Chautauqua Opera, Sarasota Opera and others.

Tenor Robert Breault enjoys an international career that features an extraordinary breadth of repertoire. His warm, flexible voice and superb artistic sensibilities combine to make him a consummate singing actor. Bass-baritone Colin Ramsey’s voice has been described as “a foundation you could build a castle on” by Seattle Times. His body of work includes performances with Seattle Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Sarasota Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and the Wolf Trap Opera Company.

Verdi composed his “Requiem Mass” in 1874, when he was in his 60s and thought that he had retired. The work came about as a result of the death of two quite different men.

The first was composer Gioachino Rossini, who died in November 1868. Verdi suggested that several Italian composers collaborate on a Requiem in Rossini’s memory. Verdi began the effort by submitting the concluding movement, “Libera me.” The project, however, collapsed due to bickering among the participants and sponsors, and the disillusioned Verdi put his manuscript on the shelf.

In May 1873, the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni died. Verdi had admired him all of his adult life and, upon hearing of his death, resolved to complete a requiem — this time entirely of his own writing — for Manzoni. Verdi completed the work in Paris over the next several months and conducted its triumphant premiere in Milan, one year to the day, after Manzoni’s death.

There had never been a setting of the requiem mass like it. Verdi used the musical language that had made his operas so effective: gripping and memorable melodies, solo and ensemble writing, a large chorus often employed in dramatic ways, and a virtuoso orchestra. Today, it is regarded as greatest of all settings of this solemn text.

IF YOU GO: Hear “Requiem,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19 in Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD. Tickets: $39 general, $37 senior, $18 student. Group discounts. Parking fee Friday. Saturday, Sunday parking free. Pre-concert lecture by Schick one hour prior to concerts. (858) 534-4637. lajollasymphony.com

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