After plans to bring Messa da Requiem to the Adelaide Festival in 2020 were scuppered by the outbreak of the pandemic, Ballett Zürich’s production of Verdi’s work is finally here, and it was worth the wait.

Verdi wrote the Requiem in memory of his compatriot Alessandro Manzoni, conducting the premiere on the first anniversary of the writer’s death in Milan’s San Marco Basilica on 22 May, 1874. It was so well received that three further performances followed at La Scala.

Messa da Requiem. Photo © Andrew Beveridge

It is an epic score, written for full orchestra, choir and four soloists. The fire and brimstone of the “Dies Irae” in the second movement is one of the most recognised musical motifs in the world today. Choreographer and producer Christian Spuck tells Limelight that was also what first attracted him to the work, when he was just a teenager.

A mainstay of the musical calendar in concert halls everywhere, the Requiem has been given a theatrical staging by Spuck that provides physical form to the undulating motifs of Verdi’s score.

Verdi is often described as anti-clerical, but the memento mori delivered by this work...