I usually begin my year end summary with a lot of statistics. Keeping up my pace of recent years, the year included 9 operas which were new for me, but the majority of operas this year were from the 100 most frequently performed list. I am counting only performances, live, streamed or recorded, which took place in 2012.
I'm going to give awards this year. I am calling them the KK Opera Awards.
Two awards, BEST BAROQUE OPERA and BEST EUROTRASH PRODUCTION this year go to the Salzburg Festival's Giulio Cesare. If you hate Eurotrash, you may count this as the worst opera of the year, but all agree that musically it was quite wonderful. For the spirit of collaborative music making it was about as good as it gets.
BEST FAKE BAROQUE OPERA AWARD goes to the Metropolitan Opera's The Enchanted Island. There are too many composers to list them all. In order to achieve this, they faked the plot, patching together Shakespeare's The Tempest along with his A Midsummer Night's Dream. They faked ensemble numbers out of baroque arias and translated everything into English. The wonderful singing from an outstanding cast was all real. This will probably not become an annual award.
BEST MOZART OPERA AWARD goes to the Met's La Clemenza di Tito which achieved the impossible: a non Eurotrash production of a true opera seria which was lively and coherent. We promise not to award to any performance with mediocre singing. Elīna Garanča and company were outstanding. This is also some of Mozart's best music.
BEST BEL CANTO OPERA AWARD has to be a tie between Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi live from the San Francisco Opera and the same opera with the same production but a different cast streamed from Munich. Both casts were amazing, but Best Wailing Award for the year must go to Netrebko and Kasarova. If you hated the production enough, you could add this to the worst list. Honorable mention goes to Maometto II at the Santa Fe Opera.
BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD goes to the Met production of Un Ballo in Maschera. I could not resist the winged Oscar, the Ulrica who carried a skull in her purse, and the stunning Verdi singing from everyone. Honorable mention goes to Attila at the San Francisco Opera.
BEST FRENCH OPERA AWARD goes to Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande streamed from the Paris Opera. The visual imagery was transformative. For French opera you need Paris. Honorable mention goes to the Santa Fe Opera production of The Pearl Fishers.
BEST PUCCINI AWARD goes to.... This is tough. Best La Boheme has to be Netrebko and Beczala from Salzburg, but the LA live performance with Perez and Costello was also very nice. And how can you not choose Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca? Someone else will have to tough this one out.
BEST REVIVAL OF A HISTORICAL MASTERPIECE AWARD must go to Einstein on the Beach at Zellerbach in Berkeley. They gave us the full experience. Congratulations to all in the audience who made it to the end.
BEST NEW OPERA AWARD, hands down, goes to Moby Dick. I awarded it an official masterpiece status. Musically and visually it spectacularly recreated the feeling of being on the ocean.
If you want them ranked, you'll have to do it yourself.