1. First performed in 1874, Verdi's setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass (Requiem) was inspired by the death the previous year of Allesandro Manzoni, the Italian poet and novelist. The piece at one time was known as the Manzoni Requiem.

2. But it was the death in 1868 of composer Gioachino Rossini that first put the idea for a new setting of the Requiem into Verdi's head. (He and 12 other Italian composers collaborated on a "Messa per Rossini.")

3. The Verdi Requiem opens with a thunderous "Dies irae" and closes with a consoling "Libera me."

4. Verdi wasn't necessarily a religious man. He famously wrote, —For some virtuous people a belief in God is necessary. Others, equally perfect, while observing every precept of the highest moral code, are happier believing in nothing."

5. A year after tenor Luciano Pavarotti's death in 2007, the Metropolitan Opera presented a performance of the Verdi Requiem in his memory. (And if you want to hear a terrific CD version of the Requiem, with Pavarotti on board, listen to the 1967 Decca recording with Georg Solti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Chorus. It includes soloists Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne and young Luciano, in full voice.)

Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069, read his stories and reviews at www.mercurynews.com/richard-scheinin and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/richardscheinin