It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists. Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show. So here goes. As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year. There were no real howlers in the COC’s season. It was solid and, at its best, better than that, For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing. I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did. I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006. Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.
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.
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?
Fully 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.