Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Defiant Requiem" / Verdi

Requiem masses have been part of my life for quite some time, since childhood in fact, as my mother played Mozart's Requiem for one year straight.  This was when she was practicing it for the Kantorei choir in a city church.  After they had practiced it for a year, the Bamberg symphony orchestra came out and helped them put it on.

More recently I have come to appreciate and love Brahms' German Requiem.  And more recently still, I have been trying to enter into the world of Verdi's Requiem.  Here it is, below:  my Verdi score! -- I have been trying to sing it, in my kitchen.  Emphasis on "trying".

More to my point, I came across the Verdi Requiem in a surprising context this week.  Netflix suggested I view:  "Defiant Requiem". -- This video is a BBC documentary quite unlike any other.  I would suggest you definitely watch it.  It deals with the Holocaust and specifically the Theresienstadt concentration camp in a highly moving and also deeply ironic way.  We do hear about the atrocities, but we need not look again at piled up emaciated bodies. We have seen them.  We have been shocked at them.  We have cried over them.  We are scarred for life looking at them.  We all are.  What humanity can do is unbelievable, incredibly shameful.  This week also was a memorial time for the atrocities in Rwanda.  Instead, we learn that the victims at Theresienstadt were shipped to Auschwitz from there, but we also learn that they had no idea what any of it meant or what happened in Aschwitz.  Many pieces of evidence corroborate the strange and unbelievable fact that so many seemed to be completely in the dark about the "final solution."

It happened that there, in Theresienstadt, and this is what the story is about, that the Jewish people organized many entertaining performances, at night, to keep their spirits up while interred.  The circumstances were inhumane, as we know.  They also studied and performed Verdi's Requiem.  I won't give away any more than that, because I really think you should watch the documentary.  It is also available on Youtube, here ( 1 hour and 20 min.):

In terms of the Requiem itself, here is a good performance, with English translations on the screen:

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