KVT – Over the Top with Verdi

KVT – Over the Top with Verdi

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KVT gets into tenebrism with Verdi at Nha Hat Lon

Twice in two years! Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ just about managed to put the fear of God into my atheist being as the massed choir, the tense musicians, the big bass drums at their booming ready best and the shining brass blasted the heavens loud enough to wake the dead and push them towards their deserved judgement. As one blogger, Huntley Dent,  puts it… a well performed ‘Requiem’ can be like being stalked by the hangman but once you admit the fear into your conciousness you are

‘home free. Free to soar for ninety minutes, borrowing death’s wings, and free to exist in the realm of practical grace.’


I always picture the ‘Requiem’ as a being part of a candle-smoke-stained Carravaggian altarpiece with its violent contrasts of lush light and dark, and where, in the chiaroscuro, the darkness becomes a dominating feature that suggests all sorts of terrors and terrorists crouching in wait to torment the unwary. While bits like the Agnus Dei can deceptively lull you with images of the Lamb of God, you still know that there may be, lurking in the dark wings, a monster with a sharp blade waiting to slice through innocent neck muscle, deep into pulsing ateries.

Yep! I like my Requiem to be interpreted from a gory Old Testament perspective with the sulphurous stink of brimstone curdling around its edges.

…you still know that there may be, lurking in the dark wings, a monster with a sharp blade waiting to slice through innocent neck muscle, deep into pulsing ateries.

Conductor Honna’s version was a heady mix of both biblical books and it allowed the blood to spill jucily but also soothed away some of the holy terror.

From the beginning of Saturday’s performance with the barely heard words, ‘requiem aeternam’ stuttering the soul’s commencement of its journey, until the last beats of silence echoed that begging plea… ‘deliver me from death everlasting in that day, that day of terror. Save me. Oh Lord.’ I was held captive until the audience’s applause erupted and sustained itself for a long time.

The Vietnam National Symphony Orhestra was in great form (as well it has to be seeing that it will soon be off to perform in New York and Boston) and three Norweigians rounded out the brass section melifluously.

Yep! I like my Requiem to be interpreted from a gory Old Testament perspective with the sulphurous stink of brimstone curdling around its edges.

The three choirs, made up of amateur singers, did a great job with this massive choral piece and most of the time were right on track (and I was as exhausted as they must have been at the end of it all). As I said last year, the experience of making and being surrounded by all that glorious sound would be hard to surpass.

The four soloists were also very capable with the females a tad more believable than the males. Norweigian mezzo, Anna Einarsson was really superb and in great and colorful operatic voice, which is what Verdi demands. Although soprano Ha Pham Thang Long doesn’t have a soaring ‘Aida’ range, she was able to beautifully cope above the ensembles. Both females combined gorgeously. The Japanese tenor’s voice, though clear, was perhaps a bit too light and at times sounded strained and the baritone didn’t quite have the required depth  all the way through…but when it all came together…as it often did…they too were stunning.

Chorus Master Graham Sutcliffe worked his magic again and I am in awe of his ability to take hold of a great mob of singers and push and pull such wonderful stuff from them. It may have been his ‘Requiem 2’ but for a lot of his charges it would have been their first. Prodigious effort!

Conductor Ong Honna was in charge and what a great charge of electricity he injected throughout the 90 minutes. He’s a real wizard.

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.

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