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SND Easter concert evokes holiday mood, and some regional history

EASTER is a holiday of contrasting emotions, with somber Good Friday being a commemoration of Christ's crucifixion and jubilant Easter Sunday a celebration of His resurrection.
So it's only fitting that the Slovak National Theatre (SND) should mark it with a performance of the Verdi Requiem, a monumental work that features some of the composer's most sorrowful melodies and exultant choruses.

Maestro Ondrej Lenárd.
photo: TASR

EASTER is a holiday of contrasting emotions, with somber Good Friday being a commemoration of Christ's crucifixion and jubilant Easter Sunday a celebration of His resurrection.

So it's only fitting that the Slovak National Theatre (SND) should mark it with a performance of the Verdi Requiem, a monumental work that features some of the composer's most sorrowful melodies and exultant choruses.

The concert takes place at the SND on April 5 at 19:00.

Leading the evening is renowned conductor Ondrej Lenárd, who has reenergized the SND Orchestra since returning for the premiere of Puccini's Turandot a year ago. The concert's soloists are Sorina Munteanu, the acclaimed Romanian soprano who alternated as Turandot under Lenárd; Polish mezzo Agnieszka Zwierko; Slovak tenor Michal Lehotský; and bass Peter Mikuláš, who was recently appointed director of the SND Opera.

Sometimes harrowing, often uplifting and always deeply reverent, Verdi's Requiem has been ranked among his operas for its dramatic flair and deep expressiveness. Its most recognizable section is most likely the explosive Dies irae chorus, in which a chilling text about Judgment Day and the wrath of God is underscored by thundering tympani and blaring trumpets.

But as well as its universal themes of fear and hope, the Requiem actually shares a historical connection to this region of the world that was re-discovered only a few years ago.

In the late 1990s, an American conductor named Murry Sidlin was browsing through records about Terezín, the Nazi concentration camp outside Prague, when he discovered an riveting musical story.

In 1943, an inmate of Terezín named Rafael Schachter had assembled a chorus of fellow prisoners who performed Verdi's Requiem 16 times over the course of a year. Schachter had only one score to work with, and was forced to rebuild his chorus three times after its ranks were decimated by deportations, but he buoyed the members' spirits by telling them they would one day perform the Requiem in freedom.

One of the chorus' performances was even attended by high-ranking Nazi official Adolf Eichmann, who joked the Jews were "singing their own requiem."

But to the imprisoned and suffering Jews, performing the Requiem was an act of defiance, and they threw themselves heart and soul into the singing of the Dies irae (Day of Wrath) and Libera me (Set me free) sections.

"What Schachter was saying was, 'Sing to them what we cannot say to them,'" Sidlin told The Washington Post. "He said it out loud [to his chorus]-that's one of the few quotes we have of him."

So when the SND chorus performs the Verdi Requiem this Easter, it will actually be celebrating two miracles: the resurrection of Christ and the endurance of the human spirit.


For more information, go to www.snd.sk. For tickets, call the SND ticket office at 02/5443-3764 or visit it at Jesenského Street. To learn more about Rafael Schachter, go to www.murrysidlin-illuminations.com /defiant.htm.

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