‘Requiem’ a powerful close to war and chorus’ season
Soprano Kathleen Halm, tenor Chad Frisque, bass-baritone Abdiel Gonzalez and the St. Paul Cathedral Choristers’ youth chorus will join the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus to close its 55th season with the local premiere of Benjamin Britten’s monumental “War Requiem.”
There will be almost 300 people and two conductors on stage for two performances of the epic work, at 8 p.m. June 5 and 3 p.m. June 6 at the Mandeville Auditorium on the UCSD campus.
Music director Steven Schick will conduct the work at large, but choral director David Chase will conduct the chamber orchestra, which will be set off to the side of the stage.
The chorus and orchestra are linked together for the entire show, described by Schick as a “bath of sound.”
Britten wrote “War Requiem” for the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed in World War II. The commission had strong appeal for Britten, a devout pacifist who tried to make that conviction central to his work.
He conceived a setting of the Latin Mass for the Dead, and scored it for very large forces — three soloists, boys choir, adult choir, orchestra and separate chamber orchestra, splicing nine poems about war by the English poet Wilfred Owen into the text of the Requiem Mass.
Owen, who was born in 1893, was serving as the commander of a rifle company when he was killed in action on Nov. 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice. Although he was unknown at the time of his death, he has come to be revered as one of the great war poets. Regarding the score, Britten himself acknowledged the stylistic influence of the requiems of other composers, such as Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem,” on his own composition.
The premiere took place on May 30, 1962, in the new cathedral, with Britten conducting. Critics have noted that there was a profound silence between the final notes and the applause. “War Requiem” had an impact matched by few works in the 20th century and was hailed by critics and audiences as a contemporary masterpiece.
Schick conceived the programming of this work as a “bookend” to LJS&C’s performance of Bernstein’s “Mass” in December. Both are requiems and use the Latin Mass, and both incorporate English text that brings the piece into a contemporary and relevant setting.
If you go
- What: San Diego premiere of Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’
- Who: La Jolla Symphony & Chorus
- When: 8 p.m. June 5; 3 p.m. June 6
- Where: Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD
- Tickets: $15-$29; (858) 534-4637,
- Details: Lecture by Eric Bromberger, 60 minutes before curtain