This was our first opportunity to hear second-year music director Josep Caball?Domenech conduct a major choral/vocal work. The Verdi Requiem, while rich in Catholicism-inspired spirituality, is as close to opera that liturgical music ever gets.

Amidst uniformly superb performances from choir, orchestra and vocal soloists, Caball?Domenech's ability to maintain rapt intensity and concentration over the 85 minutes or so it took to bring this masterpiece to life, coupled with unambiguous and accurate conducting technique, creation expression of the highest order.

The stage for this 1873 romantic gem is really set by the chorus. Colorado Springs Chorale artistic director Don Jenkins augmented his 120-voice chorale with singers from four other community ensembles to produce a 171-voice super choir. The work's cornerstone repetitions of Verdi's immense music to portray "Dies irae" (The day of judgment) were always shocking and beautiful.

The chorus really made its mark, not with grand gesture, but through the intensity and clarity it realized in the frequent hushed and humble moments of the music. The tone was set right from the start with the "Requiem aeternam dona eis domine" (Grant them Eternal rest o Lord) as the chorus was one heartrending voice.

In his final time involved with a major choral work, the soon-to-be-retiring Jenkins proved once again what an asset he has been to the musical life of our community. He will be succeeded but never replaced.

The dramatic glue to this Requiem belongs to the four soloists. Although this is not opera, Verdi couldn't help but create quasi roles for his solo voices.

A superb vocal and dramatic performance by mezzo soprano Stacey Rishoi was almost equaled by tenor Antonio Nagore. Bass Wei Wu lacked the dramatic component Verdi would have liked but sang with sensitivity and beauty.

Soprano Reyna Carguill placed a gorgeous crown on the work through her efforts in the notoriously difficult "Libera me" (Deliver me).

The inevitability of death and the profound sense of loss left to the living was captured with heart and passion in this performance.

Whether intended or not, allowing the spotlight of its season finale to be taken by its guest artists was a unexpected but welcomed accomplishment by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.