Peggy Sue Dunigan
A divine obession for the Bel Canto Chorus

Verdi’s Requiem

By - Sep 11th, 2009 07:19 pm
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belcantoLooking towards May 2010, the Bel Canto Chorus anxiously waits to produce Italian composer Giuesppe Verdi’s magnificent Requiem. In this musical dedication to the Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, the approximately 90 minute performance will allow the music group and collaborators to create an inspirational project — a choral constituency.

As envisioned by Artistic Director Richard Hynson, this constituency will involve over 300 artists to appear on the recently opened Oconomowoc Arts Center stage, the only one finally large enough to accommodate 95 Bel Canto voices, the Waukesha Choral Union, The Milwaukee Choristers, and the complete Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. While this spectacular musical piece was last performed 16 years ago, Hynson believes the sacred music will once again acoustically fill the arts center with “four fabulous soloists, heroic choruses, and profoundly powerful orchestrations.”

Creating something beautiful with a production of this magnitude requires a rehearsal period of about seven weeks, which begins immediately after the completion of the March Bel Canto program and involves intense coordination between the performing arts groups.


Artistic Director Richard Hynson, photo courtesy Bel Canto website

Hynson conversed about the upcoming season, noting that many adults in contemporary culture suffer from artistic repression, stifled from emotional outreach and release. But recently, he says, there’s been a vital resurgence in choral participation with about one out of five households now involved in a community chorus opportunity.

“It’s in our DNA to be artistically expressive. With all society’s emotional isolation these choral opportunities, including church choirs, satisfy that basic need where people combine to create something beautiful,” Hynson says.

As Verdi originally intended, this requiem was to be a sacred collaboration between several Italian composers. But because Verdi completed his movement while the other composers left theirs unfinished, Verdi finally finished his composition alone, which eventually premiered in 1874.

Now restaging what’s been mistakenly named Verdi’s ‘sacred opera’, the Bel Canto Chorus performs the uplifting program for a second time under Hynson’s direction. And although the arts organization was originally founded in 1931, this “jewel in the crown” of the city’s performance arts continues a prestigious 78-year history that has touched numerous generations of Milwaukeeans. As the grand finale to their intriguing four-concert program in the 2009-2010 season, Requiem promises to instill Hyson’s desire for that “spiritual addiction to the joy of making music. Where everyone should participate in the arts ⎯ not just go.”

Verdi’s demanding and astonishing Requiem will allow this lean but polished chorus to showcase their talents along with the other collaborative voices and musicians in the community. As Hynson describes his lyrical vision for this challenging program, it’s “to create a synergist connection between the performers and the audience that’s only possible at a live production.”

For more information on Bel Canto and next year’s mega-chorus production on May 16, 2010 — visit

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