Metropolitan Opera 2017-18 Preview: The History of Verdi’s Requiem At the Met

By David Salazar

On Friday, Nov. 24, the Metropolitan Opera will present Verdi’s famed Requiem with a star cast that includes Aleksandrs Antonenko, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, all under the baton of Music director emeritus James Levine.

Hearing the mass at the Metropolitan Opera is not a particularly common event and the work itself has not featured prominently in the company’s history, appearing just 49 times overall, with 34 of said performances taking place at the Metropolitan Opera House itself (the other 15 have been presented in other states while the company has been on tour).

But what is most interesting is that the majority of those 34 performances came in the early 1900s, with 26 coming before 1944 and only eight taking place from 1951 onward, each time more sporadic in their appearances.

Conductors have played a big role in the Requiem’s appearance with the company. Luigi Mancinelli was the first conductor to take it on, performing it for the first time with the company on Feb. 17, 1901, a few weeks after the death of the great composer. The mass received four performances that season.

The following year, Walter Damrosch took his turn with the piece. He would perform it twice at the Met and twice while on tour.

Arturo Vigna would be the next maestro to champion the late masterpiece at the Met, taking it on three times in his time between 1905 and 1906.

Between 1909 and 1910, Arturo Toscanini would bring his famed portrayal to the Met for six performances. Giulio Setti would be its next interpreter, directing the piece five times between 1918 and 1920.

Another five performances would come from Tullio Serafin in 1925 and 1926 and then Bruno Walter would perform the world sporadically in the 1940s and throughout the 1950s.

In the 1960s, George Solti led two performances in Memory of John F. Kennedy and then it would fall to James Levine to champion the work throughout the 1980s and 90s. To date, he has performed the work 13 times with the company and these four performances would bring his Met record to 17 times.

The last time that the work was presented in the theater was in 2008 in Memory of Luciano Pavarotti. The soloists on that occasion were Barbara Frittoli, Olga Borodina, Marcello Giordani, and Ildar Abdrazakov. Levine conducted.