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Requiem by a dying man: SSO Mozart concert ‘special opportunity’

The piece at the centre of the film ‘Amadeus,’ the 18th-century former child prodigy Mozart, who died aged just 35, was composing a mass for the dead at the end of his life
Renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 35. Ironically, he was in the middle of writing his 'Requiem in D Minor', which was left unfinished at the time of his death.

Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, you may have seen the 1984 film Amadeus, which presents the retelling of just one of the myths surrounding the composition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.

Mozart, an 18th century former child musical prodigy, composed part of Requiem, which was left unfinished as of his death in 1791, at the age of just 35. The work was completed by composer Franz Xaver Süssmayr in 1792.

There were half-truths and myths spread following Mozart’s death, including by his wife Constanze, which led to mythologizing surrounding Requiem.

One of these myths involves the supposed role composer Antonio Salieri played in the piece’s composition and in Mozart’s death, as seen in the 1984 movie and the earlier Peter Schaffer play of the same name.

Conductor Josh Wood is the guest conductor for Sudbury Symphony's presentation of Mozart's 'Requiem in D Minor' on March 23-24, 2024. Supplied

“It was the last piece he (Mozart) wrote,” said Josh Wood, who will direct performances of Requiem in Sudbury this weekend.

“It’s been immortalized in the play and the movie Amadeus, which is heavily, heavily dramaticized. There's no evidence at all of any sort of antagonistic relationship with Salieri. But it’s good drama, right?”

This weekend, on March 23 and 24, you can enjoy a presentation of Mozart’s Requiem by the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, the Bel Canto Chorus and the Sudbury Chamber Singers at Place des Arts. 

Saturday’s performance begins at 7 p.m., and Sunday’s is at 2 p.m.

Choir master Susan Urquhart will lead the performance, along with special guest conductor Joshua Wood, who has led the Sudbury Symphony on a number of occasions. 

All of the soloists are from Sudbury or have studied in Sudbury, including Amy Godin (soprano) Briana Sutherland (alto) Ben Done (tenor) and Dante Mullin (bass). 

The piece is described in a press release as a “fascinating and emotionally stirring choral masterpiece whose genesis is shrouded in mystery.” 

Conductor Joshua Wood remarks on the fact Mozart had been commissioned to write Requiem, a mass for the dead, while he himself was dying.

“You can definitely make a meal out of that one, for sure, to be forecasting his own demise,” he said. “If he was getting ill while he wrote it, I'm sure it was in the back of his mind, or maybe the front of his mind. But the main thing that comes out of it is that it's just a stunning piece of music.”

In preparing for the upcoming performance, Wood, also the director of the Timmins and North Bay symphonies, said he uncovered “gem after gem.”

“Going through a piece like this is kind of like mining,” he said. “As you dig into it, you just kind of unearth all these little gems, here and there, and you start to notice little things like, ‘Oh, that's, that's what he's doing there.’ It's just really beautifully written and beautifully done.”

The upcoming performance is a special opportunity for Sudbury audiences.

“Especially in places where you only do five to seven concerts a year, programming doesn't get recycled as much,” Wood said. “So this might be the first time you hear this piece, or the only time you hear this piece in the next 10-15 years. So it's a special opportunity.”

Tenor soloist Ben Done, a graduate of Laurentian University’s music program as well as the University of Toronto's master’s program in opera performance, said he’s happy to be coming back to Sudbury for the performance. 

A member of the Laurentian University Choir as a student, he took part in a performance of Requiem as a member of that group, although as a member of the chorus, not a soloist.

He said it was a “wonderful surprise” to be contacted by Sudbury Symphony. “This was the symphony that during my whole undergrad, I would go frequently to their concerts and attend,” said Done, adding that this is a “full circle” moment for him.

While Done said he’s fortunate in that his fiancee is a talented accompanying pianist, he said rehearsals have been a challenge, as Requiem is a piece that really comes alive when all of the soloists are singing together.

“In some other oratorios, you know, you just get up and sing your aria or sing your recit, and it’s just your chance to shine,” he said. “The way Mozart has written this, you know, the two parts kind of interweave and dovetail together between the four soloists most of the way along, so I'm really looking forward to putting it all together with them.”

Tickets to the show start at $31.50 and can be purchased online, here.

For more information about this event, visit or contact la Place des Arts du Grand Sudbury at [email protected].  

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s assistant editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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