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Messa da Requiem

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)

Informationen Zum Werk

First performance on 22nd May, 1874 at Milan; Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 3rd November, 2001

In Latin with German and English surtitles

90 mins / No interval

Introduction (in German language): 45 minutes before beginning; Rang-Foyer

About the performance

Giuseppe Verdi once defined Death as “Life´s most catastrophic occurrence”. As is also the case with Verdi´s operas, the individual and his or her inner reality serve as the focal point in MESSA DA REQUIEM. His mass for the dead is not meant for the interior of a church, it is meant for the world beyond. Verdi finds a human response to the Latin liturgy. He makes use of the dramatic musical intensity that we know from his operas to evoke terrifying images of Death, the end of Time, and Damnation by means of a gigantic tableau of intense emotions: Fear, Anger, Pain and the desire for Redemption. Verdi touches the secrets of our existence. His music lets us realize that there is no certainty of consolation, no other source of hope than ourselves.

Achim Freyer is a poetic creator of theatre. He has followed up this musical dramatic intesity with the splendid concept of an epic musical theatre. This means that while we are experiencing Verdi´s music fraught with emotions and at the same time tonally verging on the austere, we are simultaneously observing a dance of the Living and the Dead, or as he expresses it, “a Dance of the Dead in Life”. As in a frieze that has sprung to life, the fantastically costumed actors of his Freyer-Ensemble move across the stage, over and over again. It could be an infinity that is running out of time.

Wherein lies particular and abiding fascination of this composition? Perhaps it is Verdi the dramatist who recognizes the hidden scenic character of these texts and approaches the most profound secret of human existence, which is Death. The proportion allotted to the Dies irae, the prayer for the Dead, the Libera me demonstrates which parts of the Requiem Mass Verdi was most concerned with. At its centre there is the terror of death, a terror for the living that does not promise a vision of a benign God.

Freyer sees a vital aspect in this. “I would like to dedicate this production to all the victims of ideological violence through the centuries”. And he accordingly asks, “What can we as artists do for the present and future victims?”. There is a chance of salvation in the renunciation of the sentimental. Unreflected sentimentality, as Freyer sees it, can easily turn into ideology. Freyer does not seek to propagate illusions. He would like to present an option for a productive living with all “that there is”. And there is a huge potential for this: our very own Utopia “that we have neither inherited, nor taken over from our education. It explicitly exists within us, within our souls; it is an Utopia that begins with our ability to think.”

“A sorrowful person knows that this expression of theatre is stronger perhaps than explicitly dealing with this War”, Achim Freyer had stated ten years ago when the violence spread to the Balkans. Freyer’s images are masterful and impressive; he himself is a man who knows how to differentiate between sensitivity and sentimentality, acknowledging the sensibility of Force and the terrible, contemptible facets of Violence.

“As in Händel´s Messias und Bach´s h-Moll-Messe , Achim Freyer, the portraitist of scenes has dared to form a procession that accompanies the music, a procession of songs and dances of Death on three levels (the netherworld, the earth, and heaven) that will cause a pleasant frisson in the heart of every child. The images and figures so richly quoted for this picture-book oratory of the Last Judgment are borrowed from various sections, from Breughel to Picabia, down to de Chirico’s “disturbing muses”. It is the perfect scenic illustration of a songbook liturgy removed from the church that rises up with a musical forcefulness, a fantastically garbed Danse Macabre…” (Günter Engelhard, Rheinischer Merkur)

Our thanks to our partners

Kindly supported by "Förderkreis der Deutschen Oper Berlin e.V."



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