Titanic forces excel in Verdi’s Requiem

Posted: March 1, 2014 at 11:27 p.m.

It’s not an opera, but there are few sacred pieces as operatic as Giuseppe Verdi’s titanic Requiem, which four soloists, a double chorus of well over 200, conductor Philip Mann and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed superbly, operatically and most dramatically Saturday night at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall.

Young soloists Elisabeth Rosenberg, soprano; Christin-Marie Hill, alto; Kevin Ray, tenor; and Adam Cioffarri, bass, were excellent throughout, though occasionally plagued by balance issues — remarkably few considering the massive forces arrayed.

Hill’s tones were gorgeous, dark and rich, but her diction obscured some of her text. Rosenberg excelled in the very Verdi operatic “Libera Me” finale.

Ray, the most physically and vocally expressive and dramatic, had a couple of tiny voice breaks toward the end of the “Ingemisco” section. He also recovered, and smoothly handed back, Mann’s baton, which went flying during a particularly active moment in the “Offertorio”. (Mann literally never missed a beat.)

The diction and dynamics of the chorus, composed of seven college choirs and the Arkansas Chamber Singers (and packed in like sardines across the back of the stage), was wonderful; they deserve additional kudos for having to stand for the entire 90-minute performance plus two lengthy curtain speeches.

The orchestra gave as good a performance of this piece as I have heard an orchestra do. The one disappointment was that Mann, who otherwise milked every other available drop of drama, kept all eight of his trumpeters on stage and didn’t scatter them about the hall at the top of the “Tuba mirum.”

The musical forces will reassemble at 3 p.m. today at Robinson, West Markham Street and Broadway. The concert is 90 minutes with no intermission. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 666-1761 or online at ArkansasSymphony.org.