Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ symbolizes the senselessness of war and the importance of reconciliation
Four ensembles featuring approximately 150 singers come together to deliver a colossal performance of Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece, “War Requiem.” Opera Roanoke, Blacksburg Master Chorale, Virginia Tech Choirs, and the Georgia Boy Choir take the stage of the Moss Arts Center on Sunday, April 23, at 4 p.m. to perform the harrowing and timeless classic.
Featuring Opera Roanoke Conductor Steven White, Blacksburg Master Chorale Conductor Dwight Bigler, soprano Danielle Talamantes, tenor Barry Banks, and baritone Weston Hurt, the performance will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. The work is performed in Latin with English supertitles.
This large-scale work features unusually large musical forces to bring the exceptionally powerful work to life. Britten’s “War Requiem” was written for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed during the Battle of Britain in World War II. Set for an enormous ensemble, Britten’s exceptionally powerful work symbolizes the senselessness of war and the importance of reconciliation.
When drafting the text for “War Requiem,” Britten was inspired by two very different sources – the traditional Latin text of the “Requiem Mass” and a selection of anti-war poems penned by Wilfred Owen, an English poet who was killed in action during World War I. Britten juxtaposed nine of Owen’s poems with the Latin text for “War Requiem.”
For example, in the sanctum movement of “War Requiem,” the baritone delivers Owen’s words, “Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified, Nor my titanic tears, the sea, be dried.”
“War Requiem” premiered on May 30, 1962, in Coventry Cathedral. Performances followed at Westminster Abbey and Albert Hall. In little more than a year, it had been performed in a dozen cities abroad, including Berlin, Paris, Perugia, and Prague. The work premiered in the U.S. in 1963, with a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra that was telecast to much of the nation. The Decca recording of the production sold over 200,000 copies in five months.
The “War Requiem” continues to be regarded by many as the supreme choral masterwork of the 20th century. In The Times of London, the noted music critic and scholar William Mann wrote, “It is not a requiem to console the living; sometimes it does not even help the dead to sleep soundly. It can only disturb every living soul, for it denounces the barbarism more or less awake in mankind with all the authenticity that a great composer can muster. The work is so superbly proportioned and calculated, so humiliating and disturbing in effect, in fact so tremendous, that every performance it is given ought to be a momentous occasion. There can be no doubt that it is the most masterly and nobly imagined work that Britten ever gave us.”
Opera Roanoke was started in 1976 by a group of dedicated volunteers to produce standard operatic masterpieces, drawing talent from within the Roanoke region and playing to enthusiastic audiences. More than 40 years later, Opera Roanoke continues to produce high quality performances and has expanded its educational programming to expand awareness of the art form.
The Blacksburg Master Chorale is a diverse community organization based in Blacksburg that welcomes singers 18 and over. The ensemble performs three to four major concerts per year.
Led by Artistic Director and Conductor David R. White, the Georgia Boy Choir has quickly gained a reputation as one of the finest choirs of its kind. Known for the transcendent beauty of its singing and powerful, nuanced musical interpretation, the choir has garnered an impressive international fan base.
Open to all Virginia Tech students of any major and year, Virginia Tech Choirs (Chamber Singers, Women’s Chorus, Tech Men) sing the finest choral repertoire from all time periods and genres.
This performance is supported in part by gifts from Don and Carolyn Rude, Minnis and Louise Ridenour, and Ms. Susan M. Hansen.
Tickets for the performance are $40-$75 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.
Free parking is available for Moss Arts Center patrons in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street beginning one hour prior to the performance. Virginia Tech has also partnered with ParkMobile to provide a convenient, contactless electronic payment option for parking, which may be used at any parking meter, campus parking space, or lot with standard F/S, C/G, or R parking.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Jamie Wiggert at least 10 days prior to the event at 540-231-5300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org during regular business hours.