It hasn't been a truly fabulous year, but I can report some highlights for 2008.
The biggest thrill for me was Aida at the Arena di Verona. This is spectacle opera at its finest--great singing, beautiful sets, fine acting and a wave! How could you top this?
Macbeth and Daughter of the Regiment were the top events in the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast series. Macbeth with Maria Guleghina is available on DVD, and the Daughter production with Natalie Dessay can also be purchased on DVD.
Two versions of Carmen with Jonas Kaufmann, one in Zurich with Vesselina Kasarova and the other on DVD with Anna Caterina Antonacci were highlights. Given free choice, I would pick the DVD version. Both were original and fascinating insights on the opera, and Jonas is the best Don Jose ever.
I was also quite excited by the all media production of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle at the Berkeley Opera. Despite Opera News's claim that this is a great opera libretto, shifting the drama to computer graphics produced the first really workable version of this opera that I've seen. All should be congratulated.
I saw a lot of other modern opera, including Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw, Satyagraha, Doctor Atomic, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Candide, but none of them truly hit the spot like Bonesetter's Daughter at the San Francisco Opera. The wedding of Chinese and European art forms completely worked for me, as did the chick flick plot. It was unforgettable.
Special mention must be made of 2008 as the Year of Renée Fleming. In September she appeared in her own Metropolitan Opera Gala in gowns designed especially for her. More dress designs for Renée also appeared in Thais in December. As if that weren't enough, she also produced a superlative new recording of The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss. Viva Renée.
I am going to skip the worst of 2008. Nothing completely fell on its ass.