Saturday, September 01, 2007


Since I retired in May of 2006 I have seen as many operas as I could, including a number of operas that I had not seen before. Anyone can still have things to look forward to. Maybe I should make a wish list.

In June 2006 I saw my first Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans at the San Francisco Opera. Dolora Zajick made this a fabulous experience.

Then in September 2006 I experienced Handel's Semele at the New York City Opera in a spectacular Marilyn Monroe vs Jackie Kennedy production with Elizabeth Futral and Vivica Genaux. This may be Handel's only comedy and has become a personal favorite.

In October 2006 I went to Baltimore to see Elizabeth Futral and Vivica Genaux together again in Rossini's The Siege of Corinth. This was the version created for Beverly Sills and Marilyn Horne.

Surely I must have seen Massenet's Manon before I went to Los Angeles, but none of them made any impression at all. Perhaps Netrebko's performance erased all others.

All of these new experiences were incredible. It is a lot of fun traveling around looking for operas. I have been deliberately seeking out new operas to experience, beginning with Maw's Sophie's Choice at the Washington National Opera. It was a rare instance of a new opera with what I felt to be a good libretto and bad writing for voices. The good libretto is the rare part. Bad writing for voices is not that unusual.

In January 2007 I had a new opera experience in the simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera with Tan Dun's The First Emperor . I liked the first half but felt it petered out after that.

Then I went to Europe to see Cecilia in Handel's Semele and saw also Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno in Zurich. This work was not originally intended to be staged, but seemed to be relatively successful as an opera.

There were no other new ones until April 2007 when I saw my first Suor Angelica from Puccini's Il Trittico in the Met simulcast. Stephanie Blythe made this successful for me. That same month I saw my first Handel's Flavio at Pocket Opera in San Francisco. This was not good. There are probably a lot more Handel Operas I haven't seen.

In May 2007 I saw something that was newly created: Gounod / Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Berkeley Opera. Shakespeare's play and Gounod's Opera were combined in a shotgun wedding.

In June 2007 I saw my first performance of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride at the San Francisco Opera. I don't really remember seeing a Gluck opera before this. I apologize for the way I described this performance, which was really quite lovely.

In July 2007 I went to Santa Fe because of all the operas they were doing that I hadn't seen. I saw Strauss' Daphne in a concert performance at Kennedy Center but Santa Fe was my first staged version. Rameau's Platée was new, as was Dun's Tea, a Mirror of Soul.

In August 2007 I went to Glimmerglass for the same reason. Monteverdi's L'Orfeo was the only opera I had seen before--last year in London. Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice , Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld and
Glass' Orphée were all new.

16 out of 31 operas in this time period were new for me. This is rather an awesome statistic. I do seek out things I haven't seen before, and I would be bored to death by endless repetitions of La Boheme. There are a couple of instances where I may have simply forgotten performances that I saw years before.

Long ago I saw Bellini's I Puritani in Sacramento at the barnlike Memorial Auditorium with Joan Sutherland, so Netrebko's version was not the first.

It has been a truly extraordinary year, and I am not suddenly poor. Of all these new operas I think these are my favorites:

Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans for the incredible power of the singing of Dolora Zajick.

Glass' Orphée for the abstraction and lyricism of a new opera.

Handel's Semele both productions for the gorgeous music, lightness of spirit and high quality performances by some great stars.

Dun's Tea, a Mirror of Soul for the depth of concept and originality of execution.

Rossini's The Siege of Corinth for Vivica Genaux.

Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride I'm not really sure why. It's sneakily engulfing.

The list does not include any videos which also included a lot of new operas. It's nice to think that after all these years of going to the opera it's still possible to see something new.

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