William Dart Revue: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra: Verdi Requiem

The conductor Giordano Bellincampi offers a brilliant show. Photo / Adrien Malloch

Verdi’s Requiem won the hearts of some harsh critics from its first performances.

In Vienna, the curator Eduard Hanslick was pleasantly surprised by its “non-church”, while in London, George Bernard Shaw considered it an “imperishable monument”.

Significantly, the composer himself felt that writing it made him a serious man, no longer the clown of the audience, shouting with a bass drum.

These thoughts raced through my mind as Giordano Bellincampi and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra brought Verdi’s masterpiece to life.

A capacity audience was complemented by a full stage, including a super choir, drawn from Voices New Zealand, New Zealand Opera Chorus and Graduate Choir NZ.

These singers have been the beating heart of it all, from the visceral outbursts of “Dies Irae” to the many daring, long-striding counterpoint excursions.

There was hushed magic in their opening incantation, and chills as Bellincampi swept them into a massive crescendo as if eternal light did indeed burst.

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi and soloists, from left to right, Erika Grimaldi, Olesya Petrova, Gustavo Porta and Petri Lindroos.  Photo / Adrien Malloch
Conductor Giordano Bellincampi and soloists, from left to right, Erika Grimaldi, Olesya Petrova, Gustavo Porta and Petri Lindroos. Photo / Adrien Malloch

The Italian conductor clearly enjoyed his compatriot’s music, in all its lyricism and vigor, and the orchestra was tireless in its energy, down to a quartet of trumpets, swaggering from the circle.

Yet, all was not fire and brimstone; there was a glorious calm in the final movement, as soprano Erika Grimaldi launched her poignant plea over a sonorous choral swell.

European soloists added a festive air to the evening, although I heard more confident local tenors such as Gustavo Porta, whose extremely shaky start did not bode well.

While bass Petri Lindroos maintained a solid musical presence, Olesya Petrova proved to be a revelation in a particularly demanding role. This Russian mezzo is riding high on the international circuit right now and displays boundless vocal power without any tonal sacrifice, ranging from a clear high to an intriguingly textured low – a voice that at one point almost had me echoes Mahler’s premonitions in the music that surrounds it.

What: Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra: Verdi’s Requiem
Where: Auckland City Hall
When: Thursday
Reviewer: William Dart

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