Best of 2012

It’s been a busy year.  Besides recitals and cinema broadcasts and other bits and pieces I managed to see 23 live opera performances of 19 different works.  I also watched a ton of DVDs and Blu-rays.  What most impressed me?

Live Performances

6807331341_efdaa1cd59_zFully staged performances with orchestra basically meant the COC and Opera Atelier.  The highlights for me came early and late in the year.  I loved the brilliant and spectaular production of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin.  It’s a great score and was beautifully sung by Russell Braun, Erin Wall and Kristina Szabo.  The fall season brought Die Fledermaus to the Four Season’s Centre in Christopher Alden’s disturbing “Freudian” production.  Great theatre with particularly fine performances from David Pomeroy and Ambur Braid.

Miriam Khalil (L), Betty Allison (R)

Miriam Khalil (L), Betty Allison (R)

2012 was another good year for opera on a smaller scale with more excellent work from Against the Grain Theatre, Tapestry New Opera, Opera Five and Volcano Theatre in particular.  Top of the heap for me was AtG’s The Turn of the Screw in which the standouts were Miriam Khalil’s Governess and Michael Barrett’s really creepy QuintHigh marks too for Tapestry’s workshop of The Enslavement and Liberation of Oksana G; contemporary opera at its best and bound, I sincerely hope, for the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre in the not too distant future.  Maybe they could find a snappier title though.

Video recordings

I saw a lot of good recordings and some awful ones.  Favourites included:

  • Laurent Pelly’s hilarious Lyon production of Orphée aux enfers
  • The Vienna recording of Reimann’s Medea; a compelling argument for traditional dramatic themes in a modern musical setting
  • A completely loony recording of Rameau’s Les paladins from the Châtelet
  • Götz Friedrich’s claustrophobic film of Elektra, shot in a locomotive works
  • Claus Guth’s imaginative and disturbing staging of Messiah

Even the MetHD series managed one production that wasn’t marred by lousy sound and appalling video direction.  The broadcast of Ponelle’s aging but elegant production of La Clemenza di Tito was very good indeed from every aspect.

Personal Epiphany

This has to be the discovery of the music of Kaija Saariaho.  It wasn’t just L’Amour de Loin.  There was also a lunchtime concert with the composer in attendance and some very fine singing by Jacqueline Woodley, Mireille Asselin ansd Rihab Chaieb.  In fact it was a good year for me and engaging with contemporary opera.  I had good experiences with Reimann and Henze too.

On-line stuff

cocbearThis was the year in which on-line stuff led to off-line stuff which in turn led to more on-line stuff.  Basically blogging led to me meeting a lot of interesting people across the bubble that is the Toronto opera world and that in turn led to participation in the COC’s The Big COC Podcast; which has been a blast.  I’ve also found that more frequent engagement with other local bloggers has given me invaluable information about productions I would otherwise not have heard of.  There’s definitely a gap at present in terms of smaller companies ability to get the message out.  I’m happy to do what I can in that department.

Other news

I started this blog during a period of unemployment.  I’ve been working full time since August which really cuts into the time available for opera related activities.  Fortunately I’m about seven minutes walk from the Four Seasons Centre so if I plan far enough in advance I can carve out time around lunchtime concerts, at least some of the time.  It’s also quite hard to switch gears mentally sometimes.  I’ve yet to find any obvious links between opera and chemotherapy!

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