Opera Scotland

Messa da Requiem 1950Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Messa da Requiem

Extract from Festival Preview

The Scotsman, Thursday 6 July (p6):

'Special arrangements have been made to bring the La Scala Orchestra and choir - together numbering between 260 and 270 persons - from Milan to Edinburgh by special train.

'In addition to the performance of the Mozart Requiem on September 8, and the Verdi Requiem on September 9, in the Usher Hall, it has been agreed, at the express wish of Victor de Sabata, and the La Scala management, to give a performance of the Brahms Requiem, in the Usher Hall, on September 7, on which occasion the soloists will be Victoria de Los Angeles and Boris Christoff.  For the Verdi and the Mozart, the soloists will be the world-famous soprano, Renata Tebaldi;  Fedora Barbieri (mezzo-soprano);  Giacinto Prandelli (tenor); and Cesare Siepi (bass).

 

The Scotsman Review

The Scotsman, Tuesday 5 September (p6)

'At last night's concert in the Usher Hall, which was graced by the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret, the chorus and orchestra of La Scala, Milan, made their debut in this country.  In all, about three hundred persons, they made a striking picture, the women in black, ranged in front of the tenors and basses, and the last and highest row of the orchestra consisting of eight French horn players.  They gave what was probably one of the most eagerly awaited performances of the Festival - Verdi's Requiem under Victor de Sabata.  And it was worth waiting for.

'In this country we pride ourselves on our choirs, but it is symptomatic that whenever the Requiem is discussed, the word ''operatic'' comes up, all too often in a pejorative sense.  It may originate in the comparatively restrained manner in which it is often performed here.  Last night's performance was boundlessly operatic in the best possible way, so that the Requiem, full-blooded and effective at nearly every turn, rose above squabbles about Verdi's style.  The reason for it lay in the power and sweetness of the Italian larynx and in de Sabata's conducting.

'The opening with its hushed phrase from the orchestra, and the sotto voce murmur from the choir was a most beautiful sound.  In the Kyrie the soprnos showed an over-powering vibrato which threatened to cloud their phrases, and even the precise notes, but later this passed away.  ''Dies Irae,'' gigantic scream that it is, was magnificently controlled and at the same time wildly exciting, wits blasts of trumpet and trombone and flashes of piccolo, leading to the Berlioz savagery of the ''Tuba mirum.''

'At the other extreme was the serenity of the last ''Requiem Aeternum,'' with the soprano floating quietly above the chorus.  In the performance there was an intensity and a splendour which was quite outside the normal musical experience.  The choir rose above features of singing which would distress the average chorus master, sweeping them aside as irrelevencies.

'The four soloists,  Renata Tebaldi (soprano),  Fedora Barbieri (mezzo-soprano),  Giacinto Prandelli (tenor) and Cesare Siepi (bass) were less satisfactory in ensembles than individually, for the resonance and vibrato of their combined voices led in the lower passages to an effect of blur.  Individually, the deep clarity and enunciation of Fedora Barbieri's voice, and the singing of Renata Tebaldi throughout the latter part of the Requiem call for special notice.

'The singing inevitably overshadowed the orchestra, but the strings and the brass, who were most in prominence, promised great things for today's orchestral concert.'

 

A Different Perspective

The Scotsman, Tuesday September 5 (p7)

'Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret were among the audience at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh,  last night, when they heard a performance of Verdi's ''Requiem'' by the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala,  Milan.

'The Queen's first engagement earlier in the day was a visit at noon to the new headquarters of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  In the afternoon Her Majesty and Princess Margaret went to the Loan Exhibition of Decorative Art in Flowers and Fruit in the Signet Library, and afterwards to the exhibitions of Scottish Antiquities at 7, Charlotte Square, and Pictures and Furnishings from Scotland's Famous Houses at 5, Charlotte Square.

'When the Queen and Princess Margaret arrived at the Usher Hall rain was falling heavily, but a large crowd assembled in the streets and cheered them as they were escorted into the hall under umbrellas.

'In the foyer Lord Provost Sir Andrew Murray, who had met them on the pavement  presented the Lady Provost, who handed the Queen a lovely bouquet of pink carnations.  Others presented by the Lord Provost included Lady Rosebery;  Sir John Falconer;  Sir John Imrie,  the City Chamberlain;  Mr John Storrar, the Town-Clerk;  Mr Ian Hunter, the artistic administrator of the Festival;  and Mr Harvey Wood.

'The Queen was wearing a picture frock of oyster pink satin brocade with diamond drop earrings and a diamond and pearl necklace.  She had a sable cape round her shoulders.  Princess Margaret was in a pastel blue frock sprinkled with lilac pink paillettes.  She wore an Arctic fox cape,  and round her neck she had a diamond necklace.

'When the Queen and the Princess took their places in the grand tier there was enthusiastic applause from the audience.  The orchestra then layed the national anthems of Britain and Italy, and the performers began Verdi's ''Requiem,'' which was the sole item of the evening's programme and is one of the principal events in the Edinburgh Festival of 1950.

'The Royal party, as is usual at Usher Hall concerts, were seated at the extreme left hand end of the Grand Tier.  The hall was packed from floor to ceiling,  with people standing all round the back of the area.

'The Requiem, conducted by Victor de Sabata, was played straight through, except for a five minute break,  during which the audience were requested to keep their seats.  The Queen and the Princess Margaret,  along with those accompanying,  remained in their places during the short break.

'At the end of the concert there was a quite  amazing scene of enthusiasm, the Queen and Princess joining in fully ten minutes of continuous applause,  surpassing anything one remembers having heard or seen in the Usher Hall.  On the floor, in the Grand Tier and in the gallery people were standing,  and the conductor bowed again and again while the great ovation continued without showing any signs of stopping.

'At last, when the acclamation of the great performance grew quieter,  Her Majesty and Princess Margaret and those accompanying them rose in their places.  There was a renewed outburst of tremendous applause, the audience , joined this time by the conductor and the 300-odd members of the orchestra and chorus, acclaiming the Queen and her daughter, the Queen acknowledging the greetings with obviously great pleasure.

'In the artists' assembly room after the concert was over Her Majesty expressed her great appreciation to Signor de Sabata, who was presented to her, along with the soloists Renata Tebaldi,  Fedora Barbieri,  Giacinto Prandelli, Cesare Siepi and the Chorus Master Vittore Veneziani.  There were also presented His Excellency the Italian ambassador, Duke Calaratti-Scotti, and his wife;  Antonio Ghiringhelli, Director of La Scala, Milan, and Guido Cantelli, who will be conducting three of the remaining concerts by the La Scala Orchestra and chorus.

'The Queen and the Princess Margaret afterwards drove back to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.'

 

Operas and Choral Works at the Edinburgh Festival 1950

The fourth Edinburgh Festival, like its predecessors, had an operatic programme provided by Glyndebourne.  A total of eighteen performances were given.  Nine of them were of the first opera that had been given in Sussex in 1934 - Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.  The second group of nine performances was of something completely fresh.  This was not just a production of thr Richard Strauss comedy Ariadne auf Naxos,  but a real rarity in the original format of the work - the Moliere comedy Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme. followed by the performance mounted as an entertainment at his house.

The Usher Hall saw a series of performances by the Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, conducted by the veteran Victor de Sabata and the prodigiously talented young star Guido Cantelli.

There was also a charming performance of Bach's Coffee Cantata, with a cast led by the highly versatile soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

Performance DatesMessa da Requiem 1950

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Usher Hall | Edinburgh

4 Sep, 20.00

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