Christopher Stark conductor
Blackheath Halls Chorus
Blackheath Halls Orchestra
Verdi’s Requiem is characterised by its striking dramatic and operatic nature. In fact, at its premiere in 1874 the Requiem was criticised by many as being too operatic in style for the religious subject matter, with some calling it ‘an opera in ecclesiastical robes’, and others either praised or condemned Verdi’s breaking of standard compositional rules for dramatic effect. At the time of composition, female singers were not yet allowed to perform in Catholic Church rituals such as Requiem masses. Verdi was determined to include female singers, writing at the time “If I were in the good graces of the Holy Father—Pope Pius IX—I would beg him to permit—if only for this one time—that women take part in the performance of this music; but since I am not, it will fall to someone else better suited to obtain this decree.” His perseverance paid off, and the Requiem, from the famous (and terrifying) ‘Dies irae’ to the final dramatic ‘Libera me’ featuring the choir and soprano soloist, is sure to leave a lasting impression.
We are thrilled to have such world class soloists joining us for our performance of Verdi’s Requiem, especially as three of them are previous principals with Blackheath Halls Opera. Soprano Francesca Chiejina, alumna of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, recently featured as Anne Truelove in our 2020 video ‘lockdown opera’ The Rake’s Progress, and this season sings in Aida at the Royal Opera House and Gianni Schicchi with Scottish Opera. Mezzo-soprano Sarah Pring, recently seen as Old Lady in our 2022 production of Candide, has performed frequently at the Royal Opera House, and will in the 2022/23 season sing La Frugola in Il tabarro at the Copenhagen Opera Festival. Tenor Oliver Johnston, who played Paris in our 2019 BHO ‘La belle Helene’, will in the 2022/23 season sing Alfredo in La Traviata for Opera North and Jenik in The Bartered Bride for Garsington Opera. Bass-baritone Simon Shibambu, also an alumna of the ROH Jette Parker programme, recently appeared in Salome at the Royal Opera House and Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.