The AASO and Verdi's Requiem
So why did Verdi, a man of the theater to his bones, set the Catholic Requiem for his only large composition that wasn't an opera? Again, there were two reasons and again, one was political, the other personal. First, Alessandro Manzoni, Italian poet, novelist, and national hero, had died, and Verdi, his ardent fan, wanted to honor him. Second, Verdi had something he wanted to say about the afterlife to wit, there is no afterlife. There's death, then there's nothing.
Verdi brimmed with anger against life, death, the church, and God himself and he wanted to tear it all down. How do we know? Because for all its sound and fury and the Requiem, with its operatic soloists, immense chorus, enormous orchestra, and gargantuan bass drum, bursts with sound and fury only two tiny words are repeated, alone and unaccompanied, three times each, first by the tenor and then by the mezzo-soprano: mors (death) and then nil (nothing).