Published on February 14th, 2024



Symphony Tacoma presents


Celebrating 150 years of Verdi’s Requiem

Saturday, February 24th – 7:30pm
Pantages Theater

Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Symphony Tacoma Voices (Geoffrey Boers, director)
Tess Altiveros, soprano
Laurel Semerdjian, mezzo-soprano
Brendan Tuohy, tenor
Charles Robert Stephens, bass


Tacoma, WA — February 14, 2024 – This year celebrates the 150th anniversary of Verdi’s Requiem, his monumental choral masterpiece that transcends the traditional boundaries of the Requiem mass with its dramatic intensity and emotional depths. Symphony Tacoma proudly joins the celebration with its premiere performance of this epic piece at Remembrance on Saturday, February 24th. Symphony Tacoma, Symphony Tacoma Voices, and four renowned soloists means over 160 musicians will be on the Pantages stage.


In the last 1,700 years, over 2,000 requiems have been composed by known voices such as Mozart and Berlioz and less known voices like Campra and de Victoria. One of the most famous versions was composed by Giuseppe Verdi in 1874 in dedication to Italian poet, activist, and novelist Alessandro Manzoni.


Manzoni’s death had a profound effect on Verdi. To the recently united Italy, Manzoni was not only a great poet, novelist, and humanist, but also a fierce advocate for the reunification of Italy. After their first meeting, Verdi wrote to a friend, “I would have knelt before him if it was possible to worship men.” Less than five years after that meeting, Manzoni passed away after a terrible fall.


Verdi felt Manzoni’s passing so much that he wrote, “I haven’t the heart to attend his funeral. I shall come in a little while to visit the grave, alone and without being seen, and perhaps (after further reflection, and after I have weighed up my strength) I’ll suggest something to honor his memory.”


Days after the funeral and a private visit to Manzoni’s grave, Verdi knew how to honor his friend and wrote to his publisher, “I would like to compose a Mass for the Dead, to be performed next year on the anniversary of his death. The Mass would have rather large dimensions, and in addition to a big orchestra and a big chorus it would also require (I cannot be specific as yet) four or five principal singers.” He wanted this to be a collaboration with “the most distinguished Italian composers,” thirteen of which agreed to participate.


The Requiem premiered on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s passing and was immediately labeled a masterpiece. One review commented, “To follow the movement one by one would be quite impossible; but we will say, nevertheless, that all applauded with rapture. The ‘Dies Irae’, with all the episodes which it comprises, was received with extraordinary favor. But at the ‘Offertorium’, the enthusiasm knew no bounds, and the public insisted on the repetition of this admirable quartet with chorus … At the ‘Agnus Dei’, the applause grew louder, and suppressed shouts broke out during the performance, so powerful was the inspiration which it revealed … After the ‘Offertorium’ had been repeated, a silver crown was presented to Verdi on a velvet cushion, whilst the public applauded with rapture.”


In the harrowing context of WWII, in the Terezin concentration camp, Verdi’s Requiem emerged as a symbol of resilience and defiance. Despite the conditions and constant threat of punishment, prisoners clandestinely organized performances of the Requiem to preserve their humanity and assert their dignity. These secret gatherings served as acts of resistance, allowing inmates to momentarily transcend their suffering through the transformative power of Verdi’s poignant soundtrack, offering solace and a sense of solidarity in the face of unimaginable horror.


Verdi’s epic Requiem is still relevant a century and a half after its premiere. Featured in blockbuster films like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Shining, The Lion King, and Star Wars, the Dies Irae sequence leaves a lasting impression on audiences with its thunderous orchestral outbursts and dramatic vocal demands, solidifying its place as one of the most compelling choral works in the classical repertoire.


Symphony Tacoma Music Director, Sarah Ioannides comments, “Something like Verdi’s Requiem can have a lasting effect on you. The conveyance of the emotions that surface when you hear something like this; when you have so many forces on stage, and such a direct communication with the composer himself. With Verdi’s passion, feelings of grief, loss, and sadness but also at the same time with hope, and lightness, and joy. That moment of loss is also the moment of rebirth. So, let’s come together and celebrate life and humanity!”


Tickets for Symphony Tacoma’s Remembrance, available at the Symphony Tacoma Box Office, symphonytacoma.org, or 253-272-7264. Prices range from $24 to $89.

Symphony Tacoma’s 2023-2024 season is sponsored by Tacoma Creates. Remembrance is sponsored by One Stop Dentistry, Lakewood Gardens, Musicians’ Association of Seattle, KNKX, and South Sound Magazine.


Building community through music. Symphony Tacoma is a dynamic professional orchestra composed of local musicians dedicated to making great music accessible to all. Led by Music Director Sarah Ioannides, the orchestra is committed to engaging, educating, and inspiring the community through transformative musical experiences. www.symphonytacoma.org