Review: For 9/11 Tribute, the Met Opera Returns Home

More than 500 complimentary tickets were given out to the relatives of the victims; the rest of the tickets sold out in just a few hours. An audio feed of the show was made available to the general public in the plaza. The event was also broadcast on PBS. At the exquisite conclusion, though, a glitch disrupted the TV feed, proving what we’ve learned the hard way this year: that live is always better.

As they took off their masks to begin this ninety-minute piece, the choristers’ vulnerability was palpable. While I felt vulnerable, I was immediately drawn in by the cellos’ muted, melancholy descending first line. Choristers practically mumbled the word “Requiem,” as if they were frightened to say it out, as Nézet-Séguin slowly drew a sighing violin line and sorrowful strings.

Verdi’s Requiem may not be the best choice for 9/11 commemoration in several respects. The lyrics and music convey a palpable sense of dread at the prospect of death and the coming of the Last Day and the raging flames of hell. Nézet-Séguin, on the other hand, accentuated the soothing qualities of the music, seizing any opportunity to bring out its delicate nuances.

While the “Dies irae” is filled with pounding bass drums, angry brass, and frenetic string runs, the music nonetheless sounds more sombre and biblical than operatic in nature. The sequences of gradual, inexorable accumulation were shaped and swept by him. And in the “Offertorio,” he brought forth the music’s ruminative grace.

The soloists were outstanding. When Pérez sang, she had a brilliant tone that was both heavenly and fiery at the same time. DeYoung was able to strike the perfect balance between a smouldering intensity and a refined impact. “Ingemisco” sung by Polenzani was a heartfelt and eloquent piece of work. In particular, Owens’ earthy, deep tones in the “Mors stupebit” portion left the audience in awe.

During the fleet “Sanctus,” there were a few shaky, clumsy moments. Then again, it had all the affirming and aggressive energy you could desire. An amazing Perez and a superb chorus capped out the piece’s concluding “Libera me” part with an introspective look inwards. An eight-minute standing ovation followed, with special kudos going to the Met’s chorus master, Donald Palumbo, and his troupe. I was keeping track.

Once Terence Blanchard’s opera, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” premieres later this month, the Met will be able to start fresh with the company’s first piece by a Black composer since the Mahler performances and this Requiem.

There is already a debt owed by music lovers to the Metropolitan Opera, in particular to the orchestra and choir members who have made this organisation what it is.

The Requiem by Verdi

On Saturday, it was performed at the Metropolitan Opera.