Glee Club brought Mozart’s “Requiem Mass” to life

by Maya Poddar | 11/1/15 6:09pm

The Dartmouth College Glee Club partnered with a guest orchestra and four outside soloists to bring the program “Monumental Mozart” to life on Sunday. They performed excerpts from “The Magic Flute” (1791) and “Requiem Mass in D Minor” (1791), as well as works by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and an original composition by co-president Brian Chalif ’16.

The two Mozart pieces in the concert — “The Magic Flute” and “Requiem Mass in D Minor” — are two prominent but different works from late in Mozart’s life. Mozart worked on both pieces during the same time in his life — “the Magic Flute” was written for a German theater troupe that Mozart was active with, while the requiem was written for the “grey stranger” whose identity Mozart never learned. The requiem was famously unfinished at the time of his death and was not performed under Mozart’s name until a decade later.

Sunday’s program also included “Bogoroditse Devo (Rejoice, O Virgin)” (1915) by Rachmaninoff and Chalif’s “Dream” (2014), which were performed first and second, respectively.

Mezzo soprano section leader Jordana Composto ’16 described the requiem was “huge” and “dynamic,” while “The Magic Flute” as “fun and super challenging.”

“[‘The Magic Flute’ is] a really huge contrast from the requiem. It’s the same composer, same time of life but totally different sounds and attitudes. That dynamic makes a really dynamic program,” she said.

Composto said that Sunday’s concert covered a wide range of moods.

“[Chalif’s] piece is totally different [from the others]. It’s very new. I would describe it as a whole range,” she said. “You have a dramatic requiem and then a fun silly ‘Magic Flute,’ and then Brian’s piece is a totally different sound than either of those. It’s a huge range of sound and emotion.”

Glee club baritone-bass Kevin Hoffer-Hawlik ’19 said that he enjoyed the performance because of its breadth and quality.

“This concert was one of the most intense musical performances I have been in in my life,” he said.

Excerpts from “The Magic Flute” were performed after the prelude by Rachmaninoff and Chalif’s composition. Excerpts were drawn from both acts of the Mozart opera.

Soprano Alyssa Gonzalez ’17 had a solo in the quintet from “The Magic Flute” as the first of the three ladies. The quintet scene involves the three ladies giving the opera’s hero, Tamino, objects that will help him along on his quest to save the opera’s female protagonist Pamina from the villain Sarastro. Other excerpts performed from “The Magic Flute” included Tamino and Pamina’s meeting scene and the opera’s finale where Tamino triumphs .

“It’s a funny little scene where we help him on the journey,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a ton of fun. A couple of us worked together a few years ago on a chamber orchestra performance. We get to bring it back and stage it. It’s been a wonderful chance to work with Louis. It’s great to work with them and has been a lot of fun.”

Composto, who is both in the quintet from “The Magic Flute” and has a solo in Chalif’s piece, said that she has enjoyed the different approaches that both works require.

“[‘The Magic Flute’ is] beautiful music,” she said. “It’s fun because we get to act. It’s a group of five that I haven’t sung with before. It’s nice to do a break out project. I also have a solo in Brian’s piece, which is pretty challenging. It’s playing around with sound and production. I have to do slides, which is not in normal training. It’s been challenging to figure out the technical side. It’s fun to work with him directly because it is his piece. He can tell me exactly what he wants to hear and it is super collaborative.”

Gonzalez said that in addition to the pieces from “The Magic Flute,” she also enjoyed the chance to perform Mozart’s requiem.

“It’s a beautiful piece of music. It’s very dynamic and moving. It’s just so beautiful to sing and amazing to work with our peers on such a difficult piece of music and see how much we’ve improved,” Gonzalez said.

John Kotz ’19, a tenor in the Glee Club, said that he enjoyed seeing Mozart’s requiem, especially the “Hostias” section.

“We knew that part pretty well, and it was a lot of fun to sing,” he said. “The harmony there was super strong.”

He said that he enjoyed being in his first concert with the club and having a chance

The program featured four guest soloists for the Mozart requiem. The soloists, soprano Alexandra Batsios, mezzo soprano Emily Geller, tenor Jesse Darden and bass-baritone Kian Freitas have all performed in the past with Opera North, a New Hampshire-based performing arts group.

The soloists mostly worked on their pieces independently from the Glee Club, Composto said.

She said that the large range of pieces that the group had to learn for the weekend’s concert made it impossible for them to prepare with the orchestra ahead of their performance.

“We have so much music to learn,” she said. “It takes us until two or three days before the concert to be ready to add orchestra. We don’t have luxury of full week of practice with the orchestra. It’s a new energy to come into rehearsal and put it all together.”

The college’s glee club has over 40 student members and is directed by Louis Burkot, who has been leading the group since 1981. Burkot directed Sunday’s show.

The show occurred on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.

Chalif is a member of the Dartmouth Staff.