On the first page of the score, Britten reproduced the following lines by the poet Wilfred Owen, who died in World War I: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity... All a poet can do today is warn”.
The War Requiem is masterpiece of universal music. It was commissioned for the 1962 consecration of Coventry's new cathedral, built alongside ruins of the old cathedral which had been destroyed in the bombing raids of World War II. Since then the trauma of war and Britten's powerful score have lost nothing of their impact and their ability to move us.
The Requiem will be presented in a stage version directed by Daniel Kramer with the collaboration of the photographer and visual artist Wolfgang Tillmans, who expands on Britten's call for an end to all wars. The composer was a conscientious objector and committed pacificist, who had spent some years in exile in the United States.
The lasting approval of audiences has ensured that, sixty years after its first performance and despite Stravinsky's scathing mockery, the War Requiem remains a landmark of great emotional and moral depth. Kramer and Tillmans espouse Britten's restless spirit by affording us haunting images of human atrocities and leading us into a world occupied by the plant kingdom. The triumph of plants over ongoing violence and the inevitability of death were also prefigured in the Concert for the Biocene by Eugenio Ampudia, which was performed at the Liceu during the pandemic. Both afford valuable consolation, with frequent allusions to the Vanitas, while raising a desperate cry of a protest against the inhumanity of man himself: is our planet, deep down, already dreaming of a paradise