Showing posts with label best of. Show all posts
Showing posts with label best of. Show all posts

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013

I saw some great stuff this year! Here are some of my favorites. This list was a little less exciting to put together than some of my previous year-end posts (2012, 2011), because I mostly was home in the US and for my tastes Europe is just more interesting.

But let’s look on the bright side: the Met certainly did better in 2013 than they did in 2012 or 2011. They played it safe with new productions, most of which were imported from elsewhere, but most of them proved more or less watchable and well-sung. And in Parsifal and Die Frau ohne Schatten (the former an import and the latter a revival of a Met original) they had two very special performances of challenging and unusual works. Let's hope that this continues in the upcoming Prince Igor.

Best Performances
Parsifal (Met)
David et Jonathas (Les Arts Florissants/Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Don Carlo (Royal Opera)
Die Frau ohne Schatten (Met)

Best Individual Performances
Joyce DiDonato, La donna del lago (Royal Opera)
Antonio Pappano (conducting), Don Carlo (Royal Opera)
Peter Mattei, Parsifal (Met)

Rising Stars
Jamie Barton, Norma (second year running in this category! arguably should be promoted to the above category) (Met)
Lianna Hartounian, Don Carlo (Royal Opera)
Jacquelyn Wagner, Feuersnot (American Symphony Orchestra in concert)
Michael Spyres, La donna del lago (Royal Opera) (also has nearly outgrown this category)

Special Awards
Best Webcast: Così fan tutte, from the Teatro Real Madrid, in Michael Haneke’s superb production with a compelling cast. I also enjoyed Meistersinger from Salzburg, but was not very impressed by most of the cast or the conducting.

Most Extreme: Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Komische Oper Berlin, which was more an act of catharsis than a performance one could enjoy in any conventional sense.

Saddest: The New York City Opera had been operating on borrowed time for some time now, but its demise is the end of a great institution.

Best Reinvention: Silent film might seem an odd inspiration for opera, but the Komische Oper Berlin's production of Die Zauberflöte (seen later in Los Angeles and coming soon to Minnesota) was brilliant.

Unfulfilled Promise: Gotham Chamber Opera. Both Eliogabalo and Baden Baden 1927 seemed like terrific ideas on paper, but less so in live performance.

Biggest Contrast: When I saw the same production of Don Carlo in New York and London a few months apart. What had been dull and lifeless in New York (most of all due to Lorin Maazel’s limp conducting) was terrifically energetic in London. Even Ferruccio Furlanetto, who was the best thing in the New York performance, was way better in London.

Most Popular Posts
1. Parsifal (Met) (this post also got a remarkable 19 comments) (as someone who has found the introduction of Parsifal to undergraduate students to be something of a challenge on the enthusiasm front, this is both encouraging and surprising)
2. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Komische Oper Berlin) (16 comments)
3. Rigoletto (Met)
4. Eugene Onegin (Met)
5. Maria Stuarda (Met)

See you in 2014! I will be seeing Die Fledermaus eventually, but am going on a research trip before that and won't make it until midway through January.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Best Performances of 2012

"You aren't about to leave Serse off your Best Performances list, are you?"
I felt like I had a disproportionate number of "almosts" this year--plenty of wonderful singing, playing, conducting, directing, etc., but almost every performance came with a serious caveat that some other element was seriously lacking (e.g., I loved Christopher Alden's production of Così at the City Opera, and the cast was overall quite excellent, but the orchestra was oy). So it usually goes in opera. While my "best performances" list is short, tons of great stuff didn't fit in here here--Nina Stemme's Brünnhilde! Christian Gerhaher! The Makropulos Case! But if you want to see what I have to think about any of them, well, read the archives of this blog, because if I relived everything this would be really long. On that note, I had best proceed.

Best Performances of 2012
Serse (Komische Oper): Who knew that Regietheater wizard Stefan Herheim would turn into Mel Brooks when attempting Baroque opera? This production had a joyous and knowing attitude towards opera, and super performances from the Komische Oper ensemble. Some of it was a little recycled, but that was kind of the point, and I’ve actually found myself describing it to explain how Baroque opera works, it’s that spot-on. This production needs to be on DVD, so I can watch it whenever I’m feeling sad about life. 

Der Ring des Nibelungen (Bayerische Staatsoper): A modest Ring for unsure times, it suggested that in the end all we need is love. Fair enough, for the Ring. While sometimes too minimal for me to have strong opinions about (until a somewhat discordant, blaringly ideological Götterdämmerung), it did have a quiet poetry, and some achingly earnest performances from Anja Kampe, Nina Stemme, and Wolfgang Koch, and the entire cast did the text and drama proud. Even without directly comparing it to the Met’s DOA Lepage Ring, it had palpable life.
Lulu (Semper Oper Dresden): A scintillating performance by Gisela Stille in the title role, Cornelius Meister’s eloquent conducting, a marvelously committed cast in… another Herheim production, this one with some seriously scary clowns. I know I'm boring by just praising him all the time, but his work has a way of growing and gaining coherence in your memory as time passes, as you make sense of it for yourself.

Excellent Musical Performances: Wozzeck in concert at Avery Fisher Hall (not reviewed, sorry), La clemenza di Tito (Met), Khovanshchina (Met)

Excellent Productions (new or relatively new): Così fan tutte (Christopher Alden, City Opera), Mitridate, re di Ponto (David Bösch, Bayerische Staatsoper), Wozzeck (Andreas Kriegenburg, Bayerische Staatsoper)

Best Individual Performances
Anja Kampe (Sieglinde, Die Walküre, Bayerische Staatsoper) Such raw, vivid expression! My offer of a year or two ago to found an Anja Kampe Fan Club still stands. 
Anna Netrebko (Mimì, La bohème, Salzburg) The perfect role for her lush voice and earnestly vivacious presence.
Elina Garanca (Sesto, La clemenza di Tito, Met). I never thought I would say that! Very elegant.
Simon Keenlyside (Wozzeck, Wozzeck, Munich and Bayerische Staatsoper) Terrifying.
Classing Up the Joint, AKA Fabulous Performances Under Questionable Circumstances:
Bryn Terfel (Wotan, Ring, Met) There was more to one of his monologues than to whole acts of Lepage.
Waltraud Meier (Waltraute, Götterdämmerung, Met) There was also more to hers. A cameo that nearly redeemed the whole evening.
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Cassandre, Les Troyens, ROH) Maybe the Trojans didn’t believe her Cassandra, but the audience definitely did.
Jonas Kaufmann (Bacchus, Ariadne auf Naxos, Salzburg) Great singing with shamelessly bonkers acting.

Best Conductors
Esa-Pekka Salonen (Wozzeck, not reviewed)

Names to Watch
Guanqun Yu (Leonora, Trovatore, Met)
Jennifer Rowley (Orasia, Orpheus, City Opera)
Jamie Barton (Agnese, Beatrice di Tenda, Collegiate Chorale)
Hannah Hipp (Anna, Les Troyens, ROH)
Paul Appleby (Hylas, Les Troyens, Met)
Ryan Speedo Green (The Mandarin, Turandot, Met)

Least Awful New Met Production
Un ballo in maschera. It seemed like a decent production with a few issues, unlike most of the rest, which were issues without the potential for goodness. (Runner-up: Manon.)

Most Interesting Performance That Wasn’t Actually Good 
Fidelio (Dresden). The singing ranged from bad to really bad (Evelyn Herlitzius can be epic, but on this night she wasn’t), but this production has been hanging around since 1989. That’s a momentous date, particularly when you’re talking about Fidelio.

Best Trend
Video streaming on the internet from European opera houses. Unlike the Met HD broadcasts, these free, not that high quality productions (meaning the quality of the recording, not of the performance--the picture isn't high def, the stage lights aren't brightened for the occasion, and the sound can be a little tinny) aren’t aiming to replace the live opera experience (which is my biggest problem with the Met program, it teaches us to be numb to the virtues of liveness), and they make great, unique stuff accessible worldwide to people who would otherwise not see them. The leaders in this category are Brussels’s La Monnaie and Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper. The TV channels Arte and Medici also produce webcasts, which tend to be very high quality but often have regional restrictions (though sometimes you can find these, ahem, elsewhere--big thanks to those kind souls who disseminate things like the Bayreuth Parsifal and La Scala Lohengrin, both of which I loved).

Worst Trend
Assuming that you audience is uninterested in complexity and depth, both intellectual and emotional. The Met's worst efforts this year--the Ring and Enchanted Island--presumed the attention span and maturity of a 13-year old (or less). Dumbing things down left us with shows that were insipid, shallow, and actually pretty boring. While not everyone has a great knowledge of opera, operagoers are generally educated and curious people accustomed to films and books that are drastically more sophisticated that the kinds of things going on at many American opera houses. They can be spoken to like adults. (Some of them may find this surprising, OK, but they can learn.)

Let's hope for a great 2013!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best of 2011

I saw a lot of exciting stuff this year! Later I might ruminate about why most of it was during the seven months of the year I spent in Europe rather than during the five I spent in New York, but first here are some highlights.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best of 2010

 It was a very good year for me and Opera. Here’s the best of it.