As part of ongoing programs that commemorate the 700th anniversary of the death of celebrated Italian poet Dante Alighieri this year, Riccardo Muti leads a special “Concert for Dante” in Rome on Oct. 3.

Presented in the Courtyard of Honor at the Quirinale Palace — an official residence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella — the concert features the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra with the Choir of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in performances of Haydn’s Te Deum for the Empress Maria Theresa, Mozart’s Ave verum corpus, Verdi’s Laudi alla Vergine Maria, Liszt’s Les préludes and Verdi’s Ave Maria from Otello with soprano Rosa Feola as soloist. Rai Cultura will broadcast the concert live on Rai1 starting at 6:45 p.m. local time.

The program features several works and composers inspired by Dante’s masterwork The Divine Comedy, which portrays the poet’s journey through the afterlife traveling through the Inferno, Purgatory and ultimately arriving in Paradise. The Te Deum, which is recognized as one of the earliest surviving Christian hymns, is heard by the poet as he enters Purgatory. Verdi’s Laudi alla Vergine Maria, an a cappella choral work for female voices, incorporates text from a short prayer in Canto XXXIII of Paradise, the third part of The Divine Comedy. Composer Franz Liszt, who is represented on this program with his symphonic poem Les préludes, was a great admirer of Dante’s work and was also inspired to write the Dante Symphony, which Muti, Zell Music Director of the CSO, led in performance in 2017, and offers a glimpse into the theological and emotional world portrayed in The Divine Comedy. 

President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella stands at the tomb of Dante in Ravenna, Italy, on Sept. 5, 2020.

The celebrations to honor Dante, whom many recognize as the “Father of the Italian Language,” started several weeks ago on Sept. 5 when President Mattarella participated in a special ceremony at the poet’s tomb in Ravenna, Italy, where the Dante died in 1321. Special Dante anniversary programs continue into 2021, with more information available at dante2021.it.

In a new book set for release on Oct. 3, Le sette parole di Cristo — Dialogo con Massimo Cacciari (The Seven Last Words of Christ — a Dialogue with Massimo Cacciari), Muti offers insights into another of Haydn’s sacred choral works, The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross. This transformative work was performed by Muti and the CSO with participation by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, at Holy Name Cathedral in 2017. In the new book, Muti and contemporary Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari reflect not only on Haydn’s choral work but also on the iconic painting of the Crucifixion by the Italian Renaissance artist Masaccio.

Crucifixion from the Pisa Alterpiece, 1426, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

TOP: Detail of Dante and the Divine Comedy, a fresco in the nave of the Duomo of Florence, Italy, by Domenico di Michelino after Alesso Baldovinetti, 1465. | Photo: Wikimedia