So what was I most impressed with on the opera and related scene in in 2013?
Big house opera
The COC had a pretty good twelve months. I enjoyed everything I saw except, maybe, Lucia di Lammermoor. Making a choice between Christopher Alden’s probing La Clemenza di Tito, the searing opening night of Peter Sellars’ Tristan und Isolde; the night when I really “got” why people fly across oceans to see this piece, Robert Carsen’s spare and intensely moving Dialogues des Carmélites or Tony Dean Griffey’s intense and lyrical portrayal of the title character in Peter Grimes is beyond me. So, I shall be intensely disloyal to my home company and name as my pick in this category the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Wernicke’s production is pure magic and Anna Schwanewilms was a revelation.
Smaller house opera
It was a very good year for the smaller companies in town with strong showings from Opera Five, Loose TEA theatre, Toronto Masque Theatre, Tapestry and others. Pride of place though must go to Against the Grain’s Figaro’s Wedding. It had it all really; great music, a great concept, real wit and, above all, it was tremendous fun.
Again competition is fierce. I saw very fine work from Lawrence Wiliford, Simone Osborne, Robert Pomakov and various members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. There was a very good AtG show of works by Kurtág and Janáček with Jacquie Woodley, Colin Ainsworth and Lauren Segal. That said, pick of the year for me was Franz-Josef Selig’s lieder recital in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. What a voice! And what sensitivity and artistry in harnessing it to text and music.
I saw a lot of very good video recordings this year. A special shout out goes to the rerelease of the various BBC “original cast” Britten recordings in the composer’s centenary year. They are all worth seeing but the Owen Wingrave is particularly fine as is another older recording of Albert Herring from Glyndebourne.
Of newer recordings I find myself struggling to choose between a fine recording of a new work; Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick from San Francisco Opera, a fine Glyndebourne recording of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, a brilliantly executed Die Zauberflõte from Simon Rattle and Robert Carsen at the Baden-Baden festival (which is also a model of how to get an opera from the stage to the screen) and another Carsen production; his deliciously irreverent Rinaldo from Glyndebourne. Because I think new opera is to be encouraged the final accolade goes to Moby Dick; a fine work successfully steering the line between accessibility and being patronising well recorded in an inventive production.
Here’s hoping 2014 has as much going for it.