Wednesday 24 April 2019

Review: Verdi's Requiem

Grand Canal Theatre

Pat O'Kelly

IT MAY seem incongruous to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Trinity College's related disciplines of Medicine, Chemistry and Botany with a requiem. However, Verdi's 1860s masterpiece happens to correspond to a golden age in TCD's medical department.

The occasion finds the Guinness Choir joining forces with the University's own Choral Society and the Ulster Orchestra in a spectacular array of almost 300 performers. The Guinness involvement also reflects the brewing family's support of TCD through endowments of one kind or another over the centuries.

Turning the theatre into a concert hall for the event shows the flexibility of its acoustic. Under David Milne's direction, orchestra and choristers sound wonderfully clear with engaging instrumental detail a salient feature of the performance.

The merged choral forces' articulation is also surprisingly lucid, with their soft singing producing a gently restrained quality. More flamboyant outbursts -- 'Tuba mirum', with its spatially located trumpets, and 'Libera me' for example -- provide exciting components.

The evening's solo quartet presents variable results. Soprano Judith O'Brien scales Verdi's lofty heights and plunges to his darker recesses, while bass Simon Bailey is consistently expressive and musical.

Mezzo Emma Selway needs more vocal heft to accommodate Verdi's stentorian demands, with tenor Robert Chapin veering towards the bland rather than the colourful. Unaccompanied ensembles stumble in a minefield of suspect intonation.

The Requiem is preceded by a lacklustre account of Russian composer Alexander Borodin's exotic 'Prince Igor' overture.

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