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Music review: Verdi Requiem
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Music review: Verdi Requiem

Symphony orchestra, chorus perform with zeal

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Some sounds are viscerally satisfying no matter how many times you hear them.

There’s the sizzle of bacon, the hush of new snow — even Darth Vader’s stertorous breathing as he tells Luke Skywalker, for the hundredth time, “I am your father.”

This stuff never fails. So, too, Giuseppe Verdi’s “Dies Irae” motive, a rip-roaring, fantastically loud conjuring of the Day of Wrath that tornadoes its way repeatedly across the composer’s sprawling Requiem.

Every time, the “Dies Irae” startles and, every time, it’s awesome.

The Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the Richmond Symphony Chorus did full justice to Verdi on Saturday at the Carpenter Theatre in an evening given over, without break, to the composer’s plush meditation on death.

Despite an interval marked in the printed program, there was no intermission. This was a smart choice: It feels wrong to take time out from death to go hit up the wine bar.

However, the seamlessness of the performance did create problems with late seating, as tardy concertgoers were ushered in to bumble around in the middle of the Day of Reckoning.

Their first mistake was coming late: From the downbeat, the orchestra and chorus sold Verdi’s masterwork with missionary zeal.

To hear such an all-in performance was a treat, and the occasional bobbles of the combined forces (one, alas, marring the final note) did little to diminish the fun.

It helped that the symphony engaged, for this outing, quality vocal soloists. No student work here: Kelley Nassief (soprano), Jennifer Feinstein (mezzo-soprano), Marco Panuccio (tenor) and Kevin Deas (bass) sang, for the most part, with professional aplomb.

Panuccio’s shifts of vocal color, moving from light to dark and back, were especially riveting.

And Nassief is a first-class artist, vital and assured. Her singing in the “Libera Me,” coming at the Requiem’s close, managed to blend the smooth with the raw: an expert, yet aching, plea for deliverance.

Perhaps most satisfying were the crisp consonants and dynamic contrasts of the perennially fine Richmond Symphony Chorus.

Like that sizzling bacon, the chorus, a community institution for many decades now, seldom fails to sate.

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