Friday, December 31, 2010

Nights at the Opera: 2010

Fast away the old year passes.  So, what were my favorite nights at the opera in 2010?  Although it's not as organized or as hierarchical as a top ten list, I have come up with five favorite everything-has-gone-right nights, and five standout performances, from a whirlwind year of becoming increasingly obsessed with opera.

Five Great Nights

Shostakovich, The Nose, with Gergiev in the pit, Paulo Szot as Kovalyov and soloists and chorus doing brilliant work in a stunning production by William Kentridge.  Music and drama felt of a piece: cynical, deliberately disorienting, and even humorous if you like your comedy very black indeed.  I liked this so much I felt as though I understood Shostakovich.  And then I went to Kentridge's MoMA exhibit.

Puccini, Tosca, under the baton of Fabio Luisi.  All right, the Luc Bondy production didn't contribute much (it would be cruel, and might be unfair, to call it a gutted Tosca.)  But Luisi gave a reading of the score that was breathtaking, and the three principals not only each gave a remarkable performance, musically and dramatically, but had remarkable chemistry with each other.

Verdi, Don Carlo: yes, this is what they mean by grand opera.  I might not have been as awed by this as much of the New York press seemed to be (yes, folks, opera can do that!)  But I thought the stylized, oppressive sets worked well with the drama, and the evening was thrillingly exciting, with the singers working exceptionally well together.  Also, Furlanetto is a god.

Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisandetruly, everything went right.  Almost two weeks later, I'm still reeling.  Dichotomies--of loyalty and betrayal, innocence and guilt, innocence and knowledge--sat close together, and I sat on the edge of my seat, and discovered Debussy.

Donizetti, La Fille du Régiment, provided a salutary reminder that great nights at the opera don't have to be deeply upsetting. Florez and Damrau were irresistibly adorable, and I got to hear Kiri te Kanawa.  Happiness all around.

Five Memorable Performances

Angela Gheorghiu's Violetta.  She still owns this role, and I suspect she knows it.  For me, it worked devastatingly well.  James Valenti and Thomas Hampson were quietly excellent in the shadow of the diva.  Jonas Kaufmann's Don José: edgy, electrifying, excellent.  Hélas, Carmen, mon dieu, hélas.  I was terrified, and I couldn't look away.  René Pape's Boris Godunov.  I'm not allowed to say "slava!" am I?  Well, anyway, he was godlike... by which I mean, of course, heartbreakingly human.  The last two in this category are in concert, which may be cheating, but I liked them too much to leave off: Ekaterina Semenchuk as a fabulous Didon in Les Troyens, capturing the sensuality and nobility of this formidable queen, and Roberto Alagna in La Navarraise.  An implausible one-act shocker it may be, but Alagna's portrayal was deliciously nuanced and admirably sung.

Bonus round: favorite oddly specific search terms:

How to make giants costumes Das Rheingold (good luck, Gentle Reader!)
Photos of the week Fanciulla horses
Opera obsession! (the exclamation point makes it)
Istorical [sic] errors in Verdi’s Don Carlo 
Opera keeps highlighting things (so true, so true)
Pelleas Rattle Metropolitan –associated –eminent
Mob scenes in opera
Bostridge Des Knaben Wunderhorn old way mail girls (???)
is pelleas et melisande a great opera for a first time opera goer (oh my...)
RING OF NIBELUNG SUGAR PLUM FAIRY (please let me know in the comments what you think this reader was looking for...)

And a retrospective on a Year of Blogging: wow.  I'm still sorting through pebbles on the shore of the ocean of self-education (cf. Isaac Newton,) but it's been a good year.  I think I'm getting better at writing about music; hopefully this means I'm getting better at appreciating it.  At the outset of this adventure, Gentle Readers, I did say that the potential for sharing enthusiasm and knowledge was one of the things which motivated my decision to keep an opera blog instead of an opera journal.  And at the almost-one-year mark, I can only say thank you!  You have taught me delightful things, stimulated my brain, contributed criticisms, and graciously encouraged me in my obsession.  Here's to a new year filled with growth, discovery, joy, and of course lots of fuel for obsession with opera.  Oh! and one last thing (what would a New Year's Eve be without traditions?):
Allen einen guten Rutsch! Happy New Year, all!


  1. Happy new year! I am glad that you have the S back in the title, off to change your URL on my blog.

  2. PS: It seems that Alexander Neef felt the same way about the Met's P&M as you:

  3. Happy new year to you, too!!

  4. A very happy new year to both of you, as well! Thanks for the P&M link, too; I feel I'm in exalted company.

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