Polished War Requiem

ReservedReserved Britten, War Requiem: Soloists,Chorus, Children’s Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón. Conductor:Guillermo Scarabino, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 1.10.2013. (JSJ)

Requiem de Guerra 2013
From l. Tamara Wilson, Guillermo Scarabino, Enrique Folger and Victor Torres in Britten’s War Requiem. (Photo Teatro Colón)


Enrique Folger (Tenor)
Tamara Wilson (Soprano)
Víctor Torres (Barítono)
Chorus: Miguel Martínez
Children’s chorus: César Bustamante

With the many Verdi offerings in Buenos Aires in this bicentenary year, it is easy to forget that 2013 is a year of other important anniversaries. One of these is Wagner’s bicentenary and there may be just one offering – Der fliegende Holländer at the Teatro Argentino in La Plata – and ‘may’ because the theatre has had an unfortunate year due to funding and labour issues and the only other opera scheduled was cancelled on the day it was due to open. The other is the centenary year of Benjamin Britten’s birth, and to mark this the sole offering is his monumental War Requiem, which was selected by the Teatro Colón.

This large scale work, which was composed for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962 – the original having been destroyed by a bomb in 1940 – requires huge forces: a large orchestra, a 12-member chamber orchestra – here organized as an inner horseshoe to the full orchestra – a large mixed chorus and children’s chorus.

Britten, a conscientious objector who was freed from service in the second World War, turned back to the first War for this work, combining the traditional requiem text (sung by the soprano and the choruses) with the poems of Wilfred Owen (sung by the tenor and baritone) – up until the final 49 pentagram piece in which all participate.

Under the baton of the 70-year old Guillermo Scarabino, this was an outstanding production – expressive and polished, from both orchestras and choruses – and with the children’s chorus above the central chandelier their sound was quite ethereal, filling the auditorium with no obvious source of it.

Baritone Victor Torres was particularly notable among the soloists, singing with musicality and clarity, while tenor Enrique Folger, whose English was not so clear, brought a more operatic style to his role. Young American soprano Tamara Wilson rounded off the soloists, and set back and to the side behind the full orchestra, her powerful voice carried the Latin words of the requiem with ease.

Not surprisingly, the unusually full theatre for this final production applauded enthusiastically.

Jonathan Spencer Jones