Best of 2011

Herewith a personal take on the best things that came my way operatically in 2011.

Live performances

It was a pretty good year for live opera in Toronto. I’m certainly not going to complain about two Robert Carsen productions in the same calendar year. Good though the Gluck was though top honours in the fully staged opera in a real theatre go to the COC’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Neil Armfield’s production was fairly conventional but the music making was superb. Adrienne Pieczonka, Jane Archibald and Alice Coote headlined with strong support from Richard Margison and a whole bunch of past and present Studio Ensemble members. The orchestral playing too was absolutely first class and Sir Andrew Davis conducting looked like he was enjoying it as much as the audience. Later in the year I think we had a bit of “a star is born moment”. Christopher Alden’s Rigoletto was challenging enough that I wanted to see it a second time so took the chance to get a cheap ticket for the B cast. Thus I got to see the extraordinary chemistry between two very fine young singers; David Lomeli and Simone Osborne. Go see them if you get a chance. Actually, nothing at the COC seriously disappointed in 2011 (well maybe the The Magic Flute had a bit of a 200th performance of my career feel to it.) It looks like we are moving at last into an era when Toronto gets consistently high class singers and conductors in decent or better productions. It’s a shame there are only seven productions per year.

As for smaller venues, highlights included Against the Grain’s funky La Boheme in the highly outlandish setting of the Tranzac Club and Queen of Puddings’ world premiere of Ana Sokolov’s Svadba – Wedding; an hour long piece for six unaccompanied female voices. There were also any number of excellent free lunchtime concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.


The surprise highlight of the year for me was the restored print of the 1961 Rosenkavalier from Salzburg. Everything about it is surprising and wonderful and undermines a great deal of received wisdom about opera in that era. Other personal discoveries were the Salzburg King Arthur (who knew Germans could be funny?) and Calixto Bieito’s truly disturbing Wozzeck starring Franz Hawlata at his very considerable best.

Personal epiphany

I started the year thinking I didn’t really like John Adams much. I had hated the Met broadcast of Doctor Atomic and while I liked some of the non-operatic stuff rather more I wasn’t a fan. After watching Nixon in China twice in 24 hours (COC on the Friday night followed by the Met broadcast on the Saturday) and attending a lunchtime concert of arias introduced by the composer and sung by Peter McGillivray and Betty Wayne Allison I was converted. I even went back and watched the Amsterdam production of Doctor Atomic on DVD. I still think Doctor Atomic has its weaknesses but Nixon in China is pretty much a masterpiece.

On-line stuff

I started this blog as a way of keeping up writing analytically while I wasn’t working. It’s helped keep me sane. Through this and Twitter and other on-line stuff I’ve met some really cool people in 2011; some in meatspace including Lydia of Definitely the Opera, Cicely Carver from COC, couturier Rosemary Uhmetsu and up and coming soprano Simone Osborne. On-line folks who have helped this year along are really too numerous to mention individually but thanks anyway!

Other stuff that happened

I met Lawrence Brownlee and Leonardo Vordoni in the cinema at a MetHD broadcast! I discovered that baritone Brett Polegato (one of the funniest people in opera) has a little grey cat called Lady Jane Grey just like my little grey monster.

6 thoughts on “Best of 2011

    • Things are going pretty well at COC I think though if I were boss the sales/revenue decline from 09/10 to 10/11 would be a concern and they do seem to be discounting again fairly early. I hope this is just the economy and not a sign that the more interesting productions we have been getting are turning away the blue rinse set.

      Anyway, I shall be at the new season announcement on the 18th to see what Mr. Neef has in store for us in 12/13.

  1. What I want to know is what was Simone Osborne’s dressing room like. What is the lay of the land back there at the COC, anyway? I’ve never been, though I’ve seen the green rooms at Koerner Hall (fairly small; one has an upright).

    Do you regret missing out on anything this year? I ended up not going to the QoP’s Gubaidulina shindig with Betty Allison, and Vivaldi’s cantatas by Academy Concert Series. Both Gubaidulina and Vivaldi’s cantatas are so rarely performed here that I don’t foresee another opportunity in years. (I’ll tell you why when I see you next time.) I also can’t afford any extensive Tafelmusik concert-going. Paradoxically, their cheapest tickets are pricier than the cheapest tickets for many much larger art organizations.

    • What I want to know is what was Simone Osborne’s dressing room like.

      Small and cluttered. The whole area seemed very functional and a bit bleak. Clearly the decor budget went into the front of house and the auditorium.

      Regrets? I’m still ambiguous about the OA La Clemenza di Tito and I wouldn’t have minded seeing the Dublin Messiah that the Aradia ensemble did.

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