Moscow State Radio Symphony and Chorus
Because of its operatic wellsprings and coloratura religiosity, Verdi's Requiem is often criticized as a masquerade, and Verdi himself as a hedonist who became a stoic to write a requiem Mass for the concert stage. The music, however, is sublime, and when this work is as beautifully presented as the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus did Sunday night at George Mason University's Arts Center, the impact of the composer's vision lingers long after the soprano's closing "Libera me" soars over the fervent supplications of the chorus.
Although he did not stint on the shattering terrors of the Last Judgment, conductor Nikolai Alexeyev brought an almost tactile feel to the mix of large chorus (about 60), orchestra (about 70) and four soloists. The chorus never overwhelmed, but its rounded voice was rock steady and absolutely focused. Soprano Tatyana Silayeva began erratically but her flutter soon subsided; her duets with mezzo Elena Okolysheva's exquisitely calibrated voice were strikingly impressive. Bass Legi Imediashvili sang his difficult parts with easy distinction and warm lyricism, and Lasha Nikabadze used his appealing tenor to good dramatic effect except in the early going, when he strove for volume and the top of his voice turned edgy.
This listener changed seats at intermission. The hall's acoustics are poor downstairs and dramatically better in the balcony.
New Dominion Chorale's 'Acis and Galatea'
Thomas Beveridge conducted the New Dominion Chorale Sunday in Handel's rarely heard masque "Acis and Galatea." The performance at the Vienna Presbyterian Church was energetic and freshly conceived.
The plot of this idyllic chamber work captures the pastoral overtones of an 18th-century painting, its mythological figures cavorting among the country folk. Handel's simple plot centers around a shepherd (Acis) and goddess (Galatea) whose ardent mutual devotion is shattered by a jealous Cyclopean giant (Polyphemus). As a sometime social worker, Damon counsels the gridlocked trio, but to no avail, and Polyphemus's temper gets the best of him. It all climaxes with an ending that's not particularly happy, for the giant slaughters Acis, the goddess transforming him into a mere rivulet.
In concert form, soprano Rosa Lamoreaux portrayed Galatea's sad plight with telling facial and hand gestures, her voice pliant and graceful as she conveyed the text's pictorial images. Tenor Richard Turner made Damon a consoling seer. Daniel Snyder lent a suitably lovelorn cast to Acis, though his tenor evidenced strain. With his capacious, booming bass-baritone, Jay Raylon depicted Polyphemus as truly villainous. The orchestra struggled to keep pace with Beveridge's zippy tempos. Though somewhat weighing down the piece's bucolic fragility, the mammoth chorus succeeded in corporate expressions of tragedy, but proved cumbersome in its outbursts of joy.