I wish I could report that was the only thing that bothered me about Saturday's performance, but in truth I found a few things troubling. One was the inclusion of the chorus from LIU's CW Post campus, which chorus Mr. Shapiro also leads. I attribute to the presence of so many young voices the sometimes wan, anemic sound of the chorus men. There were also some issues with the orchestra. A single glack on a trumpet entrance might be excused, but there were repeated issues in bassoons and other winds, and occasional intonation issues from more than one section. Most troubling, however, was Mr. Shapiro's conducting. This was not the relatively tight performance I recall under Mr. Shapiro's baton in New Jersey on March 10. There were issues aplenty with cohesion and togetherness. From the audience it was hard to tell his intention in many places, and it was clear chorus, orchestra and soloists had the same difficulty.
It pains me to write in harsh terms about anyone, but the very fine solo quartet deserved better. This was the Carnegie Hall debut for soprano Jennifer Rowley and tenor Noah Baetge, likely for mezzo Leann Sandel-Pantaleo and bass Harold Wilson as well. They are all fine singers, and sang their roles well, but the fact that all four had issues in keeping with Mr. Shapiro would seem to indict Mr. Shapiro rather than any of them.
Photo credit: Markku Pilhaja
Because the soprano role is pivotal to the Verdi Requiem, I fear Mr. Shapiro did the greatest injustice to Miss Rowley. Whereas in the New Jersey performance Mr. Shapiro seems to have encouraged an occasionally raucous but overall quite balanced performance, at Carnegie Hall he seems to have pushed Miss Rowley much farther in the raucous direction but failed to follow through with support from the baton. There were passages Mr. Shapiro in fact did not conduct, a notable example being "Fac eas de morte transire ad vitam" at the end of the Offertorio, which the poor soprano sings a capella. The effect was not what one assumes he intended, but rather of the soloist being abandoned. I certainly don't mean to suggest she didn't cope well with the challenge, but that the challenge should not have been there.
Perhaps being intimately familiar with the work and hearing it live so many times in quick succession—quite an unusual opportunity—worked against me in my attempts to evaluate this performance objectively. The audience was full of happy people who were quite enthusiastic in their applause. Even putting aside the obvious crowd of LIU friends and family, this was an appreciative audience. Perhaps that is a better indicator of the success of the concert than the observations of an opera blogger. I can not say. I did enjoy the concert, but I grieve that the Carnegie Hall debuts of the four soloists will not necessarily be uniformly joyous memories for them.