Verdi’s “Messa di Requiem” has lost its original liturgic function becoming just a concert piece. Nowadays audience has different needs and for this reason I wanted to add a visual layer to update a “concert-like" Requiem, turning it into a multimedia show: a Visual Oratorio.
From this perspective I’ve found that Verdi shares a similar vision with another great italian: Michelangelo
Verdi’s “Messa di Requiem” has lost its original liturgic function becoming just a concert piece. Nowadays audiences have different needs after the arrival of high quality multimedia devices in their houses.
Moreover the very theatrical way Verdi treats music and vocal characters, requires a different approach: not a full Opera but neither a Concert.
For this reason I wanted to add a “visual layer” in order to update the “concert-like" Requiem and turn it into a multimedia show, a Visual Oratorio.
Starting from this perspective I’ve found that Verdi shares a similar vision with another great italian artist: Michelangelo Buonarroti. Both of them were interested mainly in the human being: the Man – with his concrete body - is the center of their artistic world and they both have a plastic and tridimensional idea of huge phisical masses and also a great sense of powerful rhythm.
These common features suggested me to associate their art in a new Visual Oratorio called “Il Giudizio Universale” (The Last Judgment/Le Jugement dernier) where mix together Verdi’s music and a visual rework drawn from Michelangelo’s frescos for the Sistine Chapel in Rome, enhancing and magnifying the artistic relationship between these two giants.
Verdi himself wanted to dedicate to the Last Judgement a sequence of almost 40 minutes of music, the Dies irae.
Our goal has become to transform a liturgic piece for ‘dead people’ in a more theatrical piece, performing Man's destiny in the day of the Last Judgment. This is the reason to place “Dies Irae" sequence - normally at the beginning - at the very end as well as changing the sequence of other pieces but keeping every single note of the original music.
Given a title as “The Last Judgment” we couldn’t leave the “Dies Irae” at the beginning and then have other 50 minutes of music. It would have been a basic grammar mistake in the perspective of a performed show.
This is the new musical sequence presented in “The Last Judgment”:
1) Libera me Domine
4) Agnus dei
5) Lux aeterna
6) Requiem - Kyrie
7) Dies Irae ( 10 pieces in Verdi's order)
Verdi's Requiem original sequence is:
1) Requiem - Kyrie
2) Dies Irae (sequence of 10 pieces)
5) Agnus dei
6) Lux aeterna
7) Libera me Domine
“The Last Judgment” starts with the last piece of the original sequence – Libera me Domine – that was the very first piece composed by Verdi for the Requiem he wanted to do when Rossini died, a Requiem to be composed along with other italian composers.
The project failed but some years later, for Manzoni’s death, he decided to compose a Requiem all by himself.
“Libera me domine” had been already composed and Verdi put it at the very end of his Requiem, as the old sequence prescribed. In our version it becomes the Prelude, a sort of Petit Messe Solenelle in Verdi’s honour, being this piece – the longest one – a sort of summary of the whole composition.
Therefore, the last number becomes the first and the first two numbers (no changes in the long sequence) our very last part, which is the Dies Irae, the day of the Last Judgment.
In between we have the 4 other pieces.
In Verdi's sequence they are Offertorium/Sanctus/Agnus/Lux Aeterna. In our sequence it is: Sanctus/Offertorium/Agnus/Lux aeterna.
After that Prelude with a sort of small Requiem in Verdi's honour, set in the Sistine Chapel, we start the Last Judgment with the Sanctus showing God creation of the world and then we go on with Christ’s arrival, his sacrifice and the consideration of the mistery of death (a creative remake of Josaphat Valley in Jerusalem).
After that, finally arrives the day of the the Last Judgment, ending with the “Lacrymosa”, where all the people on stage and in the house will share the same fear for death and a possible God’s Judgment…the same main feeling probably for Verdi himself.
Both singers and chorus will dress a tunic: they represent all the humanity showing themselves as a character of this universal drama. They perform just themselves, which means every man and every woman. For this reason they will sing by heart and they will move on stage, not following a very specific plot, just their being on this earth waiting for the Last Day.
Our choice has been to pursue not what Verdi did - in that specific historical context and for the purpose the Requiem was used - but what the Maestro could accept today, being alive among us and receiving from us this new way to perform his “Requiem”.
I'm pretty sure he would appreciate it and that we have been very respectful of his poetical world.
During one of the previous performances a singer told me: “for the first time I am really free to pray while I’m singing this piece; in the other way you feel like an instrument, here I feel myself as a person”
“Il Giudizio Universale” (The Last Judgment /Le Jugement dernier) mix together Verdi’s Requiem music and a visual drawn from Michelangelo’s frescos at Sistine Chapel in Rome