Messa da Requiem @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 9/3/2023

Verdi’s prodigious Messa da Requiem comes to life in a collaboration between Ballett Zürich, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and Adelaide Festival Chorus.

Composed in the memory of Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni after passing in 1873, the Requiem is acclaimed as Verdi’s masterpiece. Never intended to be performed with dancers, choreographer and ballet director Christian Spuck refuted this notion. Theatricalising the ninety-minute piece with thirty six dancers from one of Europe’s well revered ballet companies, and one hundred and seventy singers, a contemporary magnum opus was born.

The visionary Spuck interprets Verdi’s sentiments simplistically and with elegance. Instead of creating a boldly contemporary production wildly out of the box in its execution, he strikes a balance between classical and modern. As a result, the visual spectacle harmonises with the aural.

Ballett Zürich predominately employs the pas de deux, and beautifully so. Gracefulness and poised discipline are highlighted throughout. However, the addition of one hundred and seventy Adelaide Festival Chorus members on stage is transmuting.

Verdi’s Requiem fluctuates in intensity as it progresses through each movement. The complex and dramatic Dies Irae is a highlight due to the impactful choreography, which includes the chorus.

The chorus, dressed in black, is challenged in this production. They are tasked with singing and participating in the physicality of the performance. The end result is spectacular. They run across the stage in a beep test like manner to establish group formations and move harmoniously in wave-like arrangements. Their scenes are striking.

Led by Conductor Johannes Fritzsch, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra provide more than a soundtrack. They are the glue that bound all facets together to create a compelling rendering of Verdi’s composition. Soloists Elanor Lyons (soprano), Caitlin Hulcup (mezzo-soprano), Paul O’Neill (tenor), and Pelham Andrew (Bass) offered strong performances. Lyons, in particular, shone in movement VII, Libera Me. With lavish costuming from designer Emma Rott, she was glorious in the concluding scenes.

The introduction of dancing to a world-renowned classical music composition worked well. The use of props, colour, texture, and dimension worked in harmony with the score. When juxtaposed with occasional yet impactful moments of silence, we are offered a holistic representation of finality that is visually joyous and emotionally melancholy.

Messa da Requiem is a triumphant production that elevates Verdi’s chef d’oeuvre to new heights. The centrepiece of the 2023 Adelaide Festival is a truly extraordinary performance.

Adelaide Festival Review By Anita Kertes

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