There’s no getting around it, no point avoiding it – the more years you spend on this planet, the more likely you are to end up at a performance by the LA Phil of a famous composer’s Requiem Mass and find it has some personal resonance in your own life. There’s loss, and we the living go on however we can find a way, and these pieces of music are intended for us. They remind us of those people, let us say prayers for their eternal rest, and fill us with terror for the awful judgment day that still awaits us sinners on the earth. “Day of wrath/ that day/ Earth will be in ashes…How great the tremors will be / When the judge comes to examine everything/ Strictly! Strictly!”
Verdi is one of the most button-pressing composers there is, and Gustavo Dudamel conducts his music with physical force. That “Dies Irae” pounds, and it’s meant to. Verdi is tailor made for the Bowl, his big and loud moments are the biggest and loudest in the canon. It’s melodic enough to travel outdoors.
The spotlight truly shined on the featured singers, Leah Hawkins, soprano, (a last minute replacement for the billed vocalist Angel Blue), mezzo-sporano Rihab Chaieb, tenor Mario Chang, and Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone. With support from the LA Master Chorale, directed by Grant Gershon, the effect was a complete immersion in Verdi’s heightened state of emotion, not just the fear and trembling of the scary part, which everyone loves because it’s so dramatic, but also the pleas for mercy and declarations of faith.