Giuseppe Verdi - ‘Dies Irae’ and ‘Tuba Mirum’ from ‘Requiem’

Vikki Stone introduces Verdi's 'Dies Irae' and 'Tuba Mirum' from 'Requiem'.

Giuseppe Verdi (or 'Joe Green' in English!) was an Italian composer who dominated the Italian opera scene in the late 19th Century. Verdi's first opera – 'Oberto', written in 1839 – was a big success. But his second was a total flop. At this point he claimed that he would never compose again. This vow didn't last long though and in 1842 he wrote his most popular opera: 'Nabucco'. He went on to write 29 operas in total and became pretty wealthy as a result. He spent many years travelling around Europe, composing, teaching and going to star-studded premieres. His music was soon being performed all over the world and he had become a bit of a celebrity. He remained so for the rest of his life.

'Dies Irae' and 'Tuba Mirum' are sections of a larger piece of religious music called 'Requiem'. Verdi composed his 'Requiem' in 1874 in memory of the famous poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni. Dies Irae is Latin for 'Day of Wrath' and it tells of a person coming before God to receive judgement at the end of their mortal life. God looks back on the human's time on earth and weighs up all the good things and all the bad things that they've done. Depending on which one outweighs the other, the human is then sent to either heaven or hell.

Although Verdi wrote this piece as part of the Catholic Mass service, the idea actually appears in all of the world's major religions in various different forms: the way you behave during this life will affect what happens to you during the afterlife. This story gives the music some context, but even without that it is still a powerful, dramatic and pretty terrifying piece which has just as much impact today as it did 100 years ago.

Listen out for: How big the piece sounds. Verdi wrote it for four solo singers, plus an enormous choir and orchestra.

A performance of Verdi's 'Dies Irae' and 'Tuba Mirum' by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Giuseppe Verdi

BORN: 1813 / DIED: 1901 / NATIONALITY: Italian

No other composer of Italian opera has managed to match the popularity of Verdi. He told epic stories in a way that immediately appealed to the public with memorable, hummable tunes and lots of drama. When his works were first heard he was criticized for being 'too obvious', but now that is his strongest feature. His melodies continue to be used on TV and in adverts more than the songs of any other composer. Verdi was brought up in rural Italy and liked to tell people that he was from a poor, working family.

In fact, his family were landowners and could well afford the best tuition for their son. Verdi always wanted to write opera and he actually wrote little else. After his first 25 successful operas Verdi retired and began focusing on owning and developing land. He then surprised everyone by returning to opera and his final 6 or 7 pieces were even better than ever! Many of his tunes are so popular in Italy that people forget they were written for operas – they seem timeless, like folk music.

MP3: Listen to or download the music

Download the 'Dies Irae' and 'Tuba Mirum' MP3

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Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi

Lesson Plans

Download classroom lesson plans to explore Verdi's music. To save to your computer: PC - right-click and save, Mac - ctrl-click and save.

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Primary lesson plans:

Primary lesson plan for ‘Dies Irae’ and ‘Tuba Mirum’ from ‘Requiem’ (Powerpoint)

Primary lesson plan for ‘Dies Irae’ and ‘Tuba Mirum’ from ‘Requiem’ (PDF)

Lesson plan by Rachel Leach

Suitable for: Key Stage 2 in England and Wales
Second Level, P5-P7 in Scotland
*Key Stage 1/Key Stage 2 in Northern Ireland

Secondary lesson plans:

Word setting over a chromatic chord sequence (PDF)

Listening lesson (PDF)

Lesson plan 1 written by Richard Mainwaring.
Lesson plan 2 written by Ann Barkway.

Suitable for:\ Key Stage 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Third and Fourth Level, S1-S3 in Scotland

Arrangements: Play the piece with simplified parts

All parts have been designed to work together to enable mixed-ability groups to perform together

Combined score

All levels of ability in one score:

Vocal parts

Original instrumentation

In case you're considering using original parts together with these arrangements, you may find the composer's original instrumentation helpful:

3.2.2.4 – 4.4 (+4).3.1 – tmp+1, strings