The War Requiem, written for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral built along side the ruins of the original millenium-old structure that had been destroyed during the Battle of Britain in World War II, received its first performance there May 30, 1962. The work, a masterpiece that juxtaposes parts of the Catholic mass for the dead with verses by World War I poet Wilfred Owen, has transcended its origins.
The War Requiem was a public statement of Britten's anti-war convictions, a denunciation of the wickedness of war, not of other men. Britten wrote the piece for three specific soloists -- a German baritone (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), a Russian soprano (Galina Vishnevskaya), and a British tenor (Peter Pears) -- demonstrating that he had more than the losses of his own country in mind, and symbolizing the importance of reconciliation. The piece was also meant to be a warning to future generations of the senselessness of taking up arms against fellow men.
Meany Hall for the Performing Arts
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-1150
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