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Choral Union, Symphony Orchestra perform Verdi’s “Requiem” at Overture Center

March 28, 2012

For nearly 120 years, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Choral Union has been preparing and performing major choral works for university and area audiences.

That tradition continues Friday, April 20 at 8 p.m. when the Choral Union and the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform another mighty masterwork — Verdi’s stirring “Requiem.” Breaking from tradition, however, the musicians are leaving campus and heading a few blocks up the street for a concert in the Overture Center for the Arts. Yes, the Overture.

The reason for the change in venue comes down to logistics, says Beverly Taylor, professor and director of choral activities at UW–Madison’s School of Music.

“A work of this size just doesn’t fit in Mills Hall, our usual performance space in the Mosse Humanities Building. The requiem has a larger orchestra, more brass and the choir is expanded, too. Verdi also calls for off-stage trumpets,” says Taylor. “We are so happy for the opportunity to perform in Overture. It is a fabulous hall and Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ is a fabulous work. This space matches the drama of the music. The students are thrilled to be in a world-class hall where world-class performers have made music.”

Audiences are in for a treat. Verdi is best known for his operas, such as “Rigoletto”, “La traviata”, “Aida”, and others. Verdi has put the same musical thrills and emotion in the requiem he used in his operas.

Some critics hail the work as his finest “opera,” or as “Aida: The Sequel.” It is dramatic indeed, and as with opera, the character of the music reflects the situation. At times in the music all hell is breaking loose while other sections reflect spiritual yearning with haunting melodies. It was not written for liturgical use, but is considered a sacred composition according to Taylor.

“This work is one of my favorites,” says Taylor. “There is lots of action in the music and the text and I have fallen in love with the melodies and the drama. It is operatic and uses big solo voices. There is tension and beauty and it is so well crafted.”

The soloists are mezzo-soprano Marion Dry, bass Tony Dillon, and UW–Madison graduate students Shannon Prickett (soprano) and Aldo Perrelli (tenor). Dry and Dillon have performed on national and international opera stages. A professor at Wellesley College, Dry was a member of the original cast of the world premiere performances of John Adams’ opera, “Nixon in China”. Dillon has more than 60 operatic roles in his repertoire and has sung with many national and regional opera companies.

Four tiers of reserved-seat tickets ($10, $15, $20, and $25) are available through the Overture Center Box Office online at; by telephone at 608-258-4141; or in person at 201 State St., weekdays 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

“The chorus sounds superb, the orchestra is so talented and the soloists will sound terrific in this space. The requiem is shorter than an opera but packs a dramatic punch. People should come just for the extra large big bass drum used during the judgment-day passages,” laughs Taylor. “This work is not performed often because of its size and we only have one performance, so people need to come while they can. They won’t be disappointed.”