BBC Proms reviews

Prom 58: Verdi – Requiem @ Royal Albert Hall, London

28 August 2005

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall

An empty auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall (Photo: Christie Goodwin/Royal Albert Hall)

This performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the BBC Symphony Chorus and the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus satisfied in places but missed the mark in others.

The combined Chorus was excellent and well able to convey the power and emotion of the Introit & Kyrie and the Dies Irae. Their finest moment though came, with Soprano Barbara Frittoli, in the Libera Me during which they created a breath-taking climax that left the audience stunned. Their thunderous voices hit the audience with a rare force but the moments of gradual and subtle crescendo were also very moving.

Frittoli has been criticised for her meek performance and timid nature but she was in fact one of the stronger soloists; she seemed to be completely enveloped by Verdi’s music. This was most apparent in the Libera Me in which she showed a genuine desperation before ultimately evoking a sense of hope.

Unfortunately mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona did not ascend to such levels; her singing seemed slurred and mumbled. The acoustics in the Hall are renowned for unreliability, but Barcellona seemed too preoccupied in singing from the score in front of her.

Bass Ferruccio Furlanetto sung with a superb power and resonance and the emotionally captivating tenor Giuseppe Filianoti proved himself a rising star. As a quartet, all the soloists did achieve the necessary height and emotion.

The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra beautifully complimented the chorus and soloists, showing a necessary restraint in their playing thereby avoiding too romantic a sound. And they did well to ignore the somewhat gratuitous performance of conductor Gianandrea Noseda; his spasmodic movements must have been a distraction for orchestra and audience alike.

In the best performances of Verdi’s work the audience should walk away with a sense of having gained something emotionally, spiritually. The BBC Proms’ recital of the Requiem achieved this partly, but a more challenging interpretation with fewer imperfections could have achieved so much more.

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