Concert Review: Dudamel Conducts Verdi’s Powerfully Maudlin Requiem

Kevin Taft reviews the Hollywood Bowl's Classical Tuesday series entry of Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
User Rating: 8

I’ll be the first to admit, despite having played the trumpet and French horn in high school, my expertise in the area of classical music is limited. For me, being drawn to a piece of classical music is all about the feel and melody of the piece.

To educate myself a bit more and open my world up to more of the classics, I attended the Hollywood Bowl’s Classical Tuesdays with popular conductor Gustavo Dudamel at the helm.

The warm summer night gave us the complete 90-minute Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. Written in memory of Italian novelist and poet Alessandro Manzoni, Verdi’s work was performed for the first time on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s passing.

Hopelessly maudlin, Requiems are masses to honor the dead. Verdi’s “Requiem” is all about living people fearing death and praying to be delivered from it. Needless to say, the choir’s lyrics (displayed at the Bowl as subtitles on huge screens) run the gamut from depressing to frightening.

But the intensity and beauty of the music come through most often.

Sung by Leah Hawkins (a stunning last-minute replacement for Angel Blue), Rihab Chaieb, Mario Chang, and Ryan Speedo Green, the foursome were joined by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a powerful combination of choral movements and solos.

From a non-music person perspective, there was a distinct “I’m in church” quality to the evening. Almost as if you were at a formal mass with thousands of people who were as silent as death. (Truly, I never opened my bag of popcorn so as not to disturb anyone around me.)

The LA Phil was spectacular as always, navigating between bombastic movements and quiet passages with ease. The soloists were spectacular, with Hawkins and Chaieb standing out with the perfection of their vocals and the purity of their delivery.

Dudamel was a force here, conducting without a score and leading his charges through an emotional and devastating ride through grief, fear, and redemption.

You don’t have to have a master’s degree in the music of this era to appreciate the talent that is always on display during the Bowl’s classical nights. Do it to expand your horizons. Show up to support the LA Phil. Enjoy Dudamel’s last hurrah with the Bowl. Or just let a more calming night at the iconic venue seep into your bones as the music overtakes you and transports you to wherever your imagination takes you.

Coming up in the Classical Tuesday’s series are “Rhapsody in Blue” on Tuesday, July 25th,
and a night of Elgar and Mozart on August 8th.

For more information and tickets, visit www.hollywoodbowl.com.

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Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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