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The Verdi Requiem in the Closing Concert

Of the Liturgical Series of the Israeli Opera
And the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA
Conducted by Omer M. Wellber
With leading International Soloists
June 30 (in Jerusalem) and July 11 (in Tel Aviv)

The popular liturgical series of the Israeli Opera and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA closes with one of the most monumental liturgical works in the repertoire, the Requiem by Verdi.
Young Israeli conductor Omer M. Wellber, who is the appointed music director of the Valencia Opera and who recently conducted Tosca in La Scala in Milan, conducts the orchestra, the Israeli Opera Chorus and four leading international soloists: Israeli soprano Ira Bertman, American mezzo soprano Tichina Vaughn, Italian tenor Francesco Demuro and Israeli bass-baritone Vladimir Braun.
The concert will be performed twice, on June 30 at the Henry Crown Concert Hall in Jerusalem and on July 11 at the Opera House in Tel Aviv.

In the classical music world the requiem, which is a mass for the dead, has usually reflected the style of the individual composer who wrote it. The Requiem takes its name from the first words of this mass for the dead, “Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine” -- “Grant them eternal rest O Lord”. The Latin Requiem Mass has always been a part of the Liturgy but was standardized after the Council of Trent (1545-63) which created the order of the liturgical parts of the mass. Polyphonic settings of the Requiem began at the 15th century with a lost Requiem attributed to Dufay. Yet the first extant setting of the Requiem belongs to a composer scarcely remembered by the name of Ockeghem.

The Verdi requiem
In November 1868 Rossini, the grand old man of Italian music, had died in Paris at the age of 76. Verdi proposed that the anniversary of his death be commemorated by a requiem mass to which all the leading Italian composers of church music should contribute a movement. He himself would provide the concluding "Libera me." The mass would be performed at the Church of San Petronio, Bologna, the city with which Rossini has been most closely associated. The pieces were all composed and copied in good time; but the performance never took place. The local impresario refused to make his forces available for the occasion, since this would have meant curtailing the opera season from the proceeds of which he counted on being able to feed his large family. But of course the city council could easily have indemnified him, had the hearts been in the project. At the time Bologna prided itself on the modernity of its culture (two years later it would mount the Italian premiere of Lohengrin). The Messa per Rossini seemed to the authorities a backward-looking enterprise. Not daring to oppose it openly, they just let it run aground. In 1871, however, there was talk of reviving it for the inauguration of a bust of Rossini at La Scala, Milan. A committee was set up to reexamine the Mass to judge whether it would stand up as a composition on its own merits. Evidently they decided that it would not. But one of the members, Alberto Mazzucato, director of the Milan Conservatory, felt moved to write to Verdi praising his contribution to the skies. Verdi said that Mazzucato's words almost persuaded him to complete the requiem on his own, "especially since with a little more development I would find that I had already written the 'requiem aeternam' and the 'Dies irae,' to which there is a back-reference in the 'Libera me' ... but don't worry, it's a temptation that will pass.” Fortunately for the world it did not pass. The "Libera me" from the Messa per Rossini became the acorn from which the oak of the present requiem grew. A suitable occasion for its completion soon pre¬sented itself. On 22 May 1873 the writer Alessandro Manzoni died. To Verdi his historical novel, I promessi sposi, was "not just a book, but a consolation to all mankind." True, the author was a liberal Cath¬olic, while Verdi disclaimed any religious belief whatsoever. Yet they were kindred spirits. Each had fostered the cause of Italian unity; and each com¬bined national feeling with a profound sympathy for the individual. Verdi could have found no more fit¬ting subject for such a supreme commemoration. The first performance of the requiem took place on the anniversary of Manzoni's death with the soloists Teresa Stolz, Maria Waldmann, Giuseppe Capponi and Ormindo Maini, and was a predictable triumph. But Verdi had not yet finished with it. By the time it was given at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on May 15, 1875, he had replaced a fugal setting of the "Liber scriptus" with the declamatory solo for mezzo soprano that we know today. And thus in the long operatic composition hiatus that spanned the 16 years between the premiere of Aida in 1871 and the writing of Otello in 1887, Verdi wrote one of his most important and nowadays popular works, the Requiem.

The Performers:
Omer M. Wellber, conductor, was born in Israel. He is the music director of the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra and he was recently announced as the new music director of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia. Wellber began his musical education at the age of five. He plays the violin, accordion and piano. He began his composition learning at the age of 10 and was introduced to the Israeli composer Michael Wolpe, who became his composition teacher until 2004. In 1999 he graduated from the Beer Sheva Conservatory. Since then his music has been performed around Israel and abroad by orchestras, ensembles and on radio broadcasts.
He conducted all Israeli orchestras including the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and since 2005 he has been conducting regularly at the Israeli Opera, where he conducted, among others, La traviata, La forza del destino, Il trovatore, Un ballo in maschera (Verdi), Turandot, Madama Butterfly (Puccini), La Gioconda (Ponchielli), L'elisir d'amore (Donizetti), Mephistopheles (Boito), Faust (Gounod) and Cosi fan tutte and Die Zauberflote (Mozart). In February 2007 he conducted a gala concert with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. In October 2008 he conducted Aida (Verdi) in Padova and was chosen as one of 2008 international surprise artists by Classic Voice magazine. During the last two seasons, Wellber was the assistant of Daniel Barenboim both at Staatsoper Berlin and at Teatro Alla Scala. He conducted Aida (Verdi) with La Scala at Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv. He conducted Carmen (Bizet) and Tosca (Puccini) at the Berlin Staatsoper, Daphne (R. Strauss) in Dresden, Aida (Verdi), Yevgeni Onegin (Tchaikovsky) and L'elisir d'amore (Donizetti) in Valencia, Tosca (Puccini) in La Scala and Rigoletto (Verdi) at the Vienna Festival. He also conducts many concerts with orchestras all over the world.

Ira Bertman, soprano, was born in Latvia where she started her singing career as a soloist in a professional children choir in Riga before immigrating to Israel in 1992. Between the years 2000-2003 she was a member of the Israeli Opera's Opera Studio. She performs in numerous recitals and concerts with all leading Israeli orchestras including the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA, the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and many others. Her wide repertoire of numerous leading roles with the Israeli Opera includes Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Mozart), the title role in Rusalka (Dvorák), the Second Wife in the world premiere of A Journey to the End of the Millennium (Bardanashvili), Antonia in Les Contes des Hoffmann (Offenbach), the title role in Suor Angelica (Puccini), Tatiana in Yevgeny Onegin, Lisa in Pique Dame (Tchaikovsky), the Mother in the world premiere of The Child Dreams (Shohat), Helene in Jerusalem (Verdi) and many others. She also performed Adina in L'elisir d'amore during the Israeli Opera tour to the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Second Wife in A Journey to the End of the Millennium (Bardanashvili) during the Israeli Opera tour to the Tetaro dell' Opera in Rome. She performed also in the opera houses of Warsaw and Manheim. Next season she will perform at the Israeli opera the title role in Jenufa (Janacek), Madama Butterfly (Puccini) and Nedda in Pagliacci (Leoncavallo).

Tichina Vaughn, mezzo soprano, was born in the USA. Her wide repertoire includes Dame Quickly in Falstaff, Eboli in Don Carlo, Azucena in Il trovatore, Amneris in Aida (Verdi), Venus in Tannhauser (Wagner), Cornelia in Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Handel), Herodias in Salome (R. Strauss), Fricka in Die Walküre, Waltraute in Die Götterdämmerung, Erda in Siegfried and Das Rheingold (Wagner), Klytemnestra in Elektra (R. Strauss), Jezibaba in Rusalka (Dvorak), Isabella in L’Italiana in Algiers (Rossini), Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss), Ortrud in Lohengrin (Wagner) and many others. She performs in the opera houses of Dresden (where she is a member of the ensemble), Stuttgart, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, Helsinki, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Graz, the Bregenz Festival, Trieste, Genova, Rome, the Arena di Verona, Cagliari, Las Palmas, Hong Kong and many others. This is her first performance with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA.

Francesco Demuro, tenor, was born in Italy. His repertoire includes Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, the duke in Rigoletto, Gabrielle Adorno in Simon Boccanegra, Alfredo in La traviata (Verdi), Rodolfo in La boheme (Puccini), Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte (Mozart), Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss), Nemorino in L'elisir d’amore (Donizetti), Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi (Puccini), Ernesto in Don Pasquale (Donizetti) and other roles. He performs regularly in La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and the opera houses of Paris, Berlin, Parma, Hong Kong, Athens, Dresden, Bari, La Palmas, Chile, Seattle, Tokyo, Hamburg,  San Francisco and many others. This is his first performance with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA.
Vladimir Braun, bass-baritone, was born in the former Soviet Union. In the opera houses of the former Soviet Union he performed over 60 leading roles. Since immigrating to Israel he has become one of the major opera and concert singers here and performs regularly in concerts with all leading orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (under the baton of Zubin Mehta), the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA. He made his Israeli Opera debut at Germont in La Traviata (Verdi) in 1991and since then has performed over 50 roles with the company including Scarpia in Tosca, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Michele in Il tabaro, Timur in Turandot, Geronte in Manon Lescaut (Puccini), the four villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Offenbach), Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni), Tonio in Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Ferrando in Il trovatore, Paolo in Simone Boccanegra, Samuel in Un ballo in maschera, Amonasro in Aida, Ezio in Attila (Verdi), The Grand Priest of Dagon in Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saens), Oroveso in Norma (Bellini), Gremin in Yevgeny Onegin (Tchaikovsky), the Shocked Observer in the world premiere of The Child Dreams (Gil Shohat after a play by Hanoch Levin), Mephistofeles in Faust (Gounod), Tomsky in Pique Dame (Tchaikovsky), Bluebeard in Duke Bluebeard's castle (Bartok), Sulpice in La Fille du regiment (Donizetti), Boris Timofyevich in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Shostakovich) and many others.  


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