Our opening night performance was everything we wanted it to be: powerful, emotional, and expressive. It was a night to be quite proud of.
The chorus achieved everything we set out to do — we stayed locked in on Maestro Gatti’s direction the whole time. We got that cupa hollowness in the beginning. We expanded ourselves as instruments to get the Hall-shattering triple-f for the Dies Irae. We made the soft parts very personal to us. We delivered and fulfilled the vision in Maestro’s head.
Some moments really gave me chills. The climactic crescendo of the Tuba mirum, for instance, delivered on its promise of the trumpet-scattering tombs. The Sanctus double fugue was tidy and, yes, respectful, and the final fugue was forcefully delivered with authority. And for some reason, the second dona eis requiem verse of the fifth movement really hit home. It felt like the most intimate, genuine supplication to the heavens, a prayer begging for acknowledgement.
Maestro Gatti had even more surprises for us in the performance — we had to stay super-focused on him the entire time to watch for the occasional rubato or accelerando so we could stay with him. He put in yet even more of these for dramatic effect — he was so physically and emotionally invested in communicating to us what he wanted that his every move had meaning. As such, we were able to respond to a finger raise as much as a ginormous punch into the air. He was not shy in reminding us of his requests from rehearsals and coaching us further mid-performance. I hadn’t realized that he had the entire score memorized and could therefore conduct from the podium with the same attention and freedom to react that we had. What a difference it made.
What, if anything, could be criticized? Afterwards, a chorister jokingly referred to “the five soloists on stage,” meaning that Maestro Gatti was so demonstrative up there that he may have been stealing the show. Would you believe he even shushed the soloists at one point, because they weren’t heeding his direction to sing softly fast enough? He had a lot of grunts and exhales and even faint singing at a few points. Some might find all that distracting; I found it endearing.
But there’s always room for improvement. I don’t think we achieved some of the triple-p moments that we did in rehearsal — we can touch on some of those passages even more gently to create a more sacred space. I personally had a little mini-solo when I accidentally tried to double a tenor part; a relic of a previous performance with another crew that had twice as many basses as tenors. I’m sure we’ll get a few minor adjustments and reminders at tonight’s warmup. Other than that, however, I think we nailed it, and for the remaining performances I would only hope to commit even further to the piece so we can stay focused on creating another winning night.
You can’t go wrong with the Verdi Requiem; it’s a crowd pleaser any night, with any chorus, in any venue. But the raucous applause and triple-bow standing ovation told me that the audience felt just as strongly that what they had witnessed was something special.