With his War Requiem, Benjamin Britten takes us into another realm for 85 minutes, during which time essentially stands still; we know we must breathe yet we are breathless. We know we are in real-time, yet we feel suspended in timelessness. We know we are sitting in a huge theater, yet we are elsewhere: on battlefields, in foxholes, at home with cannons, spitfire, drones and bombs overhead and upon us.
We are transfixed, transformed. We witness and lament. What will we do with this - this amazing 85 minutes with hundreds of human voices rising and falling with brass, timpani, drums, woodwinds, strings? Britten reminds that we who survive and seek reconciliation have an obligation to those whose bones are scattered or interred. Britten begs, via the poetry of Wilfred Owen, "Let them rest in peace." And us? Can we rest in peace? Are our fields, valleys, hills, homes, "in peace"?
Outside, mayhem still swirls worldwide even as we congregate within the thrall of this amazing work. Each 85 minutes (or less), someone dies by the hand of destructive forces, some part of our Earth is hurt beyond survival, beyond reconciliation.
A tour de force such as this performance demands, yes warrants, collective attention to do something equally significant. We cannot simply walk away. "But let the holy standard-bearer, Michael,/lead them into the holy light" asks Britten, again via Owen. Who here and now will lead from dark destruction into life affirming light?
The Palladium gave the feel of being in a cathedral. The voices of the Indianapolis Children's Choir floated from the balcony over our heads. The combined voices of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, Butler University Chorale and Indianapolis Men's Chorus projected to us from the back of the stage.
And the players of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, along with the soloists, reached out and embraced us from the apron of the stage. Soprano Sinead Mulhern, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Christopheren Nomura earned special mention. Eric Stark conducted with assurance.