Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Republic of Italy, offered a concert on Saturday, May 12 to Benedict XVI to mark the seventh anniversary of his election to the pontificate. The performance was held in the Paul VI Hall where the Orchestra and Choir of the Roman Opera House, conducted by Riccardo Muti and Roberto Gabbiani, played Antonio Vivaldi’s “Magnificat RV611”, and the “Stabat Mater” and “Te Deum” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Quattro pezzi sacri”.
At the end of the concert, the Pope thanked those who had participated in the preparation and performance of the event, expressing his appreciation for Riccardo Muti’s sensitivity for sacred music and his efforts to disseminate awareness of “this rich repertory which expresses the faith of the Church in music. … The ‘Magnificat’ we have heard is a hymn of praise to Mary and to all the humble of heart who joyfully and gratefully recognize and celebrate God’s action in their lives and in history. God’s ‘style’ is different from that of man, because He stands alongside the poorest and weakest to give them hope. With extraordinary depth of feeling, Vivaldi’s music expresses praise, exultation, thanksgiving, and wonder before the works of God”.
The Holy Father continued his remarks by nothing that, “with the two pieces of sacred music by Giuseppe Verdi, … there was a change of register. We found ourselves in the presence of Mary’s suffering at the foot of the cross. … Just as he explored and expressed the drama of so many characters in his operas, here Verdi outlines the drama of the Virgin as she contemplates her Son on the cross. The music is reduced to the essential, almost ‘seizing’ the words to express their significance as intensely as possible, … enabling us to participate in her maternal suffering and allowing the love of Christ to burn in our hearts, until the last passage which is an intensely powerful supplication to God that the soul be given the glory of heaven, the ultimate aspiration of humankind.
“The ‘Te Deum’ is also replete with contrasts”, the Pope added. “Verdi is scrupulously attentive to the holy text but his reading thereof diverges from that of tradition. He does not concentrate on the song of victory or coronation but, as he himself wrote, on the successive situations: initial exultation, … contemplation of Christ incarnate Who frees and opens the Kingdom of Heaven, … invocation … for Him to have mercy and, in the end, the cry repeated by soprano and the choir: ‘In te, Domine, speravi’, with which the piece closes, almost a request on Verdi’s part for hope and light in the last stage of his life”.