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War Requiem

One of the greatest choral works of the twentieth century, Britten‘s War Requiem was written for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962.

It juxtaposes the traditional Latin text of the Requiem Mass with the anti-war poetry of soldier Wilfred Owen, who was killed a week before the Armistice.

ENO Performance History

2018/19 season

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Synopsis

1 REQUIEM AETERNAM

Chorus

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Chorus

Lord, grant them eternal rest;

and let the perpetual light shine upon them.

Children’s Choir

Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion:

et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem;

exaudi orationem meam,

ad te omnis caro veniet.

Children’s Choir

Thou shalt have praise in Zion, O God:

and homage shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem;

hear my prayer,

all flesh shall come before Thee.

Chorus

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

 

Chorus

Lord, grant them eternal rest;

and let the perpetual light shine apon them.

 

Tenor solo

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

 

What candles may be held to speed them at all?

Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.

The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

 

Chorus

Kyrie eleison.

Christe eleison.

Kyrie eleison.

 

Chorus

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

 

2 DIES IRAE
Chorus

Dies irae, dies illa,

Solvet saeclum in favilla,

Teste David cum Sibylla.

 

Quantus tremor est futurus,

Quando Judex est venturus,

Cuncta stricte discussurus!

 

Tuba mirum spargens sonum

Per sepulchra regionum

Coget omnes ante thronum.

 

Mors stupebit et natura,

Cum resurget creatura,

Judicanti responsura.

Chorus

This day, this day of wrath

Shall consume the world in ashes,

As foretold by David and Sibyl.

 

What trembling there shall be

When the judge shall come

To weigh everything strictly.

 

The trumpet, scattering its awful sound

Across the graves of all lands,

Summons all before the throne.

 

Death and nature shall be stunned

When mankind arises

To render account before the judge.

Baritone solo

Bugles sang, saddening the evening air;

And bugles answered, sorrowful to hear.

 

Voices of boys were by the river-side.

Sleep mothered them; and left the twilight sad.

The shadow of the morrow weighed on men.

 

Voices of old despondency resigned,

Bowed by the shadow of the morrow, slept.

 Soprano solo and Chorus

Liber scriptus proferetur,

In quo totum continetur,

Unde mundus judicetur.

 

Judex ergo cum sedebit

Quidquid latet, apparebut:

Nil inultum remanebit.

 Soprano solo and Chorus

The written book shall be brought

In which all is contained

Whereby the world shall be judged.

 

When the judge takes his seat

All that is hidden shall appear:

Nothing will remain unavenged.

 Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

Quem patronem rogaturus,

Cum vix justus sit securus?

 What shall I, a wretch, say then?

To which protector shall I appeal

When even the just man is barely safe?

Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salva me, fons pietatis.

King of awful majesty,

Who freely savest those worthy of salvation,

Save me, fount of pity.

 Tenor and Baritone solos

Out there, we’ve walked quite friendly up to Death:

Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland, –

Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.

We’ve sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, –

Our eyes wept, but our courage didn’t writhe.

He’s spat at us with bullets and he’s coughed

Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft;

We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

 

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!

We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.

No soldier’s paid to kick against his powers.

We laughed, knowing that better men would come,

And greater wars; when each proud fighter brags

He wars on Death – for Life; not men – for flags.

 Chorus

Recordare Jesu pie,

Quod sum causa tuae viae:

Ne me perdas illa die.

 

Quarens me, sedisti lassus:

Redemisti crucem passus:

Tantus labor non sit cassus:

 

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:

Culpa rubet vultus meus:

Supplicanti parce Deus.

 

Qui Mariam absolvisti,

Et latronem exaudisti,

Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

 

Inter oves locum praesta,

Et ab haedis me sequestra,

Statuens in parte dextra.

 

Confutatis maledictis,

Flammis acribus addictis,

Voca me cum benedictis.

 

Oro supplex et acclinis

Cor contritum quasi cinis

Gere curam mei finis.

 Chorus

Remember, gentle Jesus,

That I am the reason for Thy time on earth,

Do not cast me out on that day.

 

Seeking me, Thou didst sink down wearily,

Thou hast saved me by enduring the cross,

Such travail must not be in vain.

 

I groan, like the sinner that I am,

Guilt reddens my face,

O God spare the supplicant.

 

Thou, who pardoned Mary

And heeded the thief,

Hast given me hope as well.

 

Give me a place among the sheep

And separate me from the goats,

Let me stand at Thy right hand.

 

When the damned are cast away

And consigned to the searing flames,

Call me to be with the blessed.

 

Bowed down in supplication I beg Thee,

My heart as though ground to ashes:

Help me in my last hour.

 Baritone solo

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,

Great gun towering toward Heaven, about to curse;

 

Reach at that arrogance which needs thy harm,

And beat it down before its sins grow worse;

 

But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,

May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

 Chorus and Soprano solo

Dies irae, dies illa,

Solvet saeclum in favilla:

Teste David cum Sibylla.

 

Quantus tremor est futurus,

Quando Judex est venturus,

Cuncta stricte discussurus!

 Chorus and Soprano solo

This day, this day of wrath

Shall consume the world in ashes,

As foretold by David and Sibyl.

 

What trembling there shall be

When the judge shall come

To weigh everything strictly.

Lacrimosa dies illa,

Qua resurget ex favilla,

Judicandus homo reus,

Huic ergo parce Deus.

O this day full of tears

When from the ashes arises

Guilty man, to be judged:

O Lord, have mercy upon him.

 Tenor solo

Move him into the sun –

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields unsown.

Always it woke him, even in France,

Until this morning and this snow.

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds, –

Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.

Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,

Full-nerved – still warm – too hard to stir?

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

–       O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth’s sleep at all?

Chorus

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.

Amen.

Chorus

Gentle Lord Jesus, grant them rest.

Amen.

3 OFFERTORIUM

 

Chidren’s Choir

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,

libera animas omnium fidelium

defunctorum de poenis inferni,

et de profundo lacu:

libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas

tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum.

Children’s Choir

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,

deliver the souls of the faithful

departed from the pains of hell,

and the bottomless pit:

deliver them from the jaw of the lion, lest hell

engulf them, lest they be plunged into darkness.

 Chorus

Sed signifer sanctus Michael

repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam:

Quam olim Abrahae promisisti,

et semini ejus.

 Chorus

But let the holy standard-bearer Michael

lead them into the holy light,

as Thou didst promise Abraham

and his seed.

Tenor and Baritone solos

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,

And took the fire with him, and a knife.

And as they sojourned both of them together,

Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,

Behold the preparations, fire and iron,

But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,

And builded parapets and trenched there,

And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.

When lo! and angel called him out of heaven,

Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,

Neither do anything to him. Behold,

A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;

Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son, –

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

 

Children’s Choir

Hostias et preces tibi Domine

laudis offerimus: tu suscipe pro

animabus illis, quarum hodie

memoriam facimus: fac eas, Domine,

de morte transire ad vitam.

Children’s Choir

Lord, in praise we offer to Thee

sacrifices and prayers, do Thou receive them

for the souls of those whom we remember

this day: Lord, make them pass

from death to life.

4 SANCTUS
Soprano solo and Chorus

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus

Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua,

Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Soprano solo and Chorus

Holy, holy, holy

Lord God of hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Baritone solo

After the blast of lightning from the East,

The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;

After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,

And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,

 

Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth

All death will He annul, all tears assuage? –

Fill the void veins of Life again with youth,

And wash, with an immortal water, Age?

 

When I do ask white Age he saith not so:

‘My head hangs weighed with snow.’

And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:

‘My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.

Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified,

Nor my titanic tears, the sea, be dried.’

5 AGNUS DEI
Tenor solo

One ever hangs where shelled roads part.

In this war He too lost a limb,

But His disciples hide apart;

And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

 Chorus

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona eis requiem.

Chorus

Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

grant them rest.

 Tenor solo

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,

And in their faces there is pride

That they were flesh-marked by the Beast

By whom the gentle Christ’s denied.

 Chorus

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona eis requiem.

 Chorus

Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

grant them rest.

 Tenor

The scribes on all the people shove

and bawl allegiance to the state,

But they who love the greater love

Lay down their life; they do not hate.

 Chorus

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Chorus

Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

grant them eternal rest.

 Tenor solo

Dona nobis pacem.

6 LIBERA ME
Chorus and Soprano solo

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,

in die illa tremenda:

Quando coeli movendi sunt et terra:

Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.

Chorus and Soprano solo

Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death

in that awful day

when the heavens and earth shall be shaken

when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo,

dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.

Quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.

Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis

et miseriae, dies magna et amara valde.

Libera me, Domine …

I am seized with fear and trembling,

until the trial shall be at hand and the wrath to come.

When the heavens and earth shall be shaken.

That day, that day of wrath, of calamity

and misery, a great day and exceeding bitter.

Deliver me, O Lord …

 Tenor solo

It seems that out of battle I escaped

Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped

Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,

Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.

Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared

With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,

Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.

 

And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.

‘Strange friend,’ I said, ‘here is no cause to mourn.’

 

Baritone solo

‘None,’ said the other, ‘save the undone years,

The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,

Was my life also; I went hunting wild

After the wildest beauty in the world.

 

For by my glee might many men have laughed,

And of my weeping something had been left,

Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,

The pity of war, the pity war distilled.

Now men will go content with what we spoiled.

Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.

They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,

None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.

Miss we the march of this retreating world

Into vain citadels that are not walled.

Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels

I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,

Even from wells we sunk too deep for war,

Even the sweetest wells that ever were.

 

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.’

 

Tenor and Baritone solos

‘Let us sleep now…’

Children’s Choir, Chorus and Soprano solo

In paradisum deducant te Angeli;

in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,

et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,

et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam

habeas requiem.

Children’s Choir, Chorus and Soprano solo

Into Paradise may the Angels lead thee:

at thy coming may the Martyrs receive thee,

and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.

May the Choir of Angels receive thee

and with Lazarus, once poor,

may thou have eternal rest.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Lord, grant them eternal rest,

and let the perpetual light shine upon them.

Requiescant in pace. Amen. Let them rest in peace. Amen.