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Verdi's 'Requiem' and 'Don Carlos' this weekend

Giuseppe Verdi always thought big. He would appreciate this weekend's veritable feast for Verdi lovers: the Requiem — with the massive Master Chorale of Tampa Bay — by the Florida Orchestra, and a rare performance of Don Carlos by the Sarasota Opera.

A perfect 'Requiem'

Verdi was one of those composers so full of music that sections of one work sometimes showed up in another quite different work of his. Take the Lacrimosa theme from the Requiem, which first appeared a few years earlier in a duet in Don Carlos.

"Verdi's operatic style naturally flowed into his Requiem,'' said Florida Orchestra music director Stefan Sanderling. "He uses a religious vehicle to express much broader, deeper feelings.''

Sanderling will be the conductor for this weekend's extravagant setting of the funeral mass, which runs 90 minutes with no intermission and features 180 singers from the Master Chorale and four soloists.

"The Requiem is one of those pieces that is just perfect,'' Sanderling said. "There's not one note too many and not one note too few.''

Compared to the Requiems of Bach or Mozart or Brahms, Verdi's is a flashy affair, with solos that sound like opera arias.

"The more times I do it the more I approach it from an operatic standpoint than as a sacred choral piece,'' said Master Chorale artistic director Richard Zielinski. "We go for a very full, vibrant sound. For opera singers, their bread and butter is singing on vowels, and getting that continuous bel canto sound. For a chorus like us, who sing a lot of Baroque music like Messiah, it's a very different way of singing, and it's very exciting.''

Sanderling finds hope for our troubled economic times in sections of Verdi's Requiem. "The finale, Libera me, has a very modern and immediate meaning,'' he said. "Free me of all these troubles, and show me a way out of this misery.''

If you go: The performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. The fours soloists are Indra Thomas, soprano; Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, mezzo-soprano; Jeffrey Springer, tenor; and Dean Elzinga, bass. $19-$65. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286; floridaorchestra.org.

The grand 'Don Carlos'

The Sarasota Opera is well-known for performing Verdi, but tackling Don Carlos is ambitious.

In fact, it is unusual for Don Carlos to be performed anywhere but at major international companies such as La Scala in Milan or the Metropolitan Opera in New York because it is so large. Sung in French and premiered in Paris in 1867, it is widely regarded as the grandest of French grand operas.

Don Carlos, modeled after a play by Friedrich von Schiller set in the 16th century Spanish court of King Philip II, has as many as seven versions, in both French and Italian (confusingly, the title is Don Carlos in French, Don Carlo in Italian), because Verdi rewrote it so often. Sarasota is staging a four-act version in French that will run almost four hours.

"This work really needs all the time it takes to tell the story,'' said artistic director Victor DeRenzi, who is conducting. "The human element is so complex. You have to see the characters go through their journeys. Verdi creates a certain truth about them that has to do with all of us.''

The Sarasota cast includes soprano Reyna Carguill as Elisabeth, mezzo-soprano Stella Zambalis as Eboli, tenor Gustavo Lopez Manzitti as Carlos, baritone Marco Nistico as Rodrigue and bass Kevin Short at Philippe.

If you go: Don Carlos opens Saturday and has seven performances through March 28 at Sarasota Opera. $25-$115. (941) 366-8450, ext. 1, or toll-free 1-888-673-7212; sarasotaopera.org.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

Verdi's 'Requiem' and 'Don Carlos' this weekend 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 3:30am]

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