October 23, 2009

Washington Post Gives Rave Review


In performance: Verdi Requiem

Lewis leads sublime "Requiem"
by Cecelia Porter

In his apocalyptic “Requiem,” Giuseppe Verdi grasps the sublime. As is often said, this monumental mass for the dead offers most of the trappings and grandeur of his operas. To celebrate his 25th season as director of the Cathedral Choral Society, J. Reilly Lewis led his premier chorus, vocal soloists and orchestra in a magnificent performance of the Requiem at the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday.
(read more after the jump)
Lewis missed none of the music’s terrifying juxtaposition of heaven and hell — a parallel to the emotions and conflict depicted in opera between virtuous heroine and evil villain. And he led the chorus delicately from the hushed tones of “rest in peace” (Requiem aeternam) into the solo ensemble’s passionate Kyrie. Verdi sets the ancient Latin text with the rhythmic pulse of spoken Italian, injecting the often stupefying words with all the fire and fury of the stage. He underlines moments of serene consolation with the soaring lyricism of an opera aria. It’s just this profoundly human quality Verdi gives to the religious text that Lewis made supremely evident on Sunday.
The singers delivered the “Dies Irae” of the Last Judgment with the searing ferocity of a lightning bolt — recalling the lurid, wrenching extremes that Hieronymous Bosch depicted on canvas. The solo trio lent the “Lux Aeterna” a lustrous tenderness. And except for a few pitch problems in more exposed ensembles, soprano Lise Lindstrom, mezzo Ann McMahon Quintero, tenor Thomas Poole and bass Wayne Tigges offered glowing accounts of their demanding roles.
--Cecelia Porter

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