Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 in brief

I have had a very strange operatic year.  How about you?

The first strange thing is that of the 37 staged operas I reviewed this year (live, HD, 3 on film) only 15 of them appear on the most performed operas list, and two of those are Faust.  First there is no Faust for decades, and then there are 3 in just over a year?  It's like waiting for the bus in San Francisco. 

The second odd thing is that there were 10 new operas.  That means new for me.  When I started the blog, I deliberately sought out operas that I hadn't seen as an educational project.  This year it was all a coincidence.  Only one, Heart of a Soldier, was a live world premier, though two of the films, Anna Nicole and Il Postino, were of world premier performances.  While I would not call any of these three operas a great work, there was much to like in them.  All three had chick flick elements and were theatrically viable.

The third odd thing is that only 13 performances in my 2011 list were from the Romantic and post-Romantic styles, namely Il Trovatore through CapriccioPagliacci in Sacramento was a stunning surprise.  Joyce DiDonato as the composer in Ariadne was a joy.

I am including Wagner in this group. One of the highlights of the year was Die Walküre live in New York with Jonas Kaufmann.  There should have been more.  There should have been Nina Stemme's Götterdämmerung, for one thing.  I apologize for missing the San Francisco Ring.

This year I saw 7 different bel canto operas, 4 of them serious (Armida, Lucia, Lucrezia Borgia, Anna Bolena), all by Rossini and Donizetti.  These have to be regarded as the cream of the crop.  Lawrence Brownlee, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau are all magnificent bel canto singers.  It was a treat to hear them.  It is one of the great joys of contemporary opera productions that we get to see and hear these wonderful operas.

Bel canto through post-Romantic is what most people think of as opera, and yet in this list it is just barely over half of the operas.  I like having my brain tweaked and my experiences stretched.

Even odder is the fact that I saw two different stagings of Iphigénie en Tauride, one in DC and one in HD.  I have now seen it 3 times.  Curiouser and curiouser.  Susan Graham continues her world tour of this opera, which she owns.  First decades of no Gluck and now everywhere there is Gluck.

And the oddest thing of all has to be that I saw live performances of 3 Baroque operas I had never seen before:  Griselda (annoying plot), Xerxes (trite bordering on stupid plot) and Rodelinda (sympathetic plot).  My friends all walked out on Xerxes.  Other friends tsked at me when I said I loved Rodelinda.  They are not ready for Baroque opera or countertenors, no matter how good they are.  Cecilia Bartoli has dragged me kicking and screaming into the Baroque, and now I generally like it.  The singing has to be pretty spectacular, though, to overcome the irritating plots.  I wonder if any of the companies made money off of these.

I have started to think that perhaps this is the golden age of opera.

Happy New Year.

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