Friday, December 06, 2013

2013 Year in Review and KK Opera Awards

You may feel free to classify Neon Jonas with Eurotrash.

2013 was the year of streaming Jonas Kaufmann. Without leaving my neighborhood I experienced:
Wonderful operas, wonderful casts, widely varying conducting. Conducting ranked 1-4: Pappano, Gatti, Welser-Möst, Carignani. I felt that Il Trovatore was less than ideal for Harteros because the conductor chopped off her high notes by rushing on to the next thing.  Performance overall ranked:  Don Carlo, Fanciulla, Parsifal, Trovatore.  The first three were my all time favorite versions for these operas, an amazing feat.  Trovatore had some flaws, including the weird production.

As we move into the awards you are bound to notice certain repeats from the above list.  To be eligible for an award a live performance must have taken place in 2013.

  • BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD is split to two awards: for production we award to the Metropolitan Opera's neon Rigoletto, while for music the award cannot help but go to the Salzburg Don Carlo.  There was a lot of Verdi this year, but there was also some very high quality.
  • BEST WAGNER OPERA AWARD must go to the Metropolitan Opera's Parsifal.  I cannot indeed think of any Wagner performance I found superior.  James Morris as Wotan.  There are people who thought René Pape's Gurnemanz was boring, but for me it was exactly as I would have wanted it.
  • BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD goes to the Metropolitan Opera's Julius Caesar, the MusicalThis may be my last view of Natalie Dessay for a while.  Her dancing was fabulous.  I liked this opera best for David Daniels who made the character of Caesar really seem like someone who could conquer the world.  In the constant search for ways to make the stagings of Handel operas seem interesting this one sets a standard.
  • BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD has quite a few entrants:  Les Troyens, Francesca da Rimini and Eugene Onegin all from the Met, Les Conte d'Hoffmann and Mefistofele from San FranciscoFor all its complexities I'm awarding to the very dark Les Conte d'Hoffmann with the Met's Les Troyens as a close runner up. That's a second award for Natalie Dessay.
  • BEST REVIVAL OF A HISTORICAL MASTERPIECE AWARD goes to the Met's production of The Nose.  I felt that the production itself rose almost to the level of a masterpiece and perfectly suited the opera.
  • BEST MUSICOLOGY OUTCOME AWARD  Musicology played a role in the American Bach Soloists' performance of the Bach St. John Passion, Les Conte d'Hoffmann and the Salzburg Norma.  This means because of research into original performance practices, these works were presented in ways that were different from what the audience would be familiar with.  I had a problem with the Bach Passion because this version of the score omitted my favorite part--the final glorious chorale.  I award to Norma because it seemed to me that the complete transformation of this opera and the resulting re-emphasis on plot was significantly aided by the changes to the score.
  • BEST TRANSFORMATION OF A FAMILIAR WORK INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AWARD  goes to Cecilia Bartoli's Norma from Salzburg with Julius Caesar, the Musical a close second.  I very much enjoyed the film noir Norma with its increased realism.  Pollione would leave Norma for a much younger woman, in opera terms a soubrette such as we see here, and not for the heavy mezzo we traditionally see.  It's the only opera I traveled for this year.

  • BEST ACTING IN AN OPERA AWARD goes to Cecilia Bartoli in Norma.  I should award this category every year.  Honorable mention goes to Nina Stemme in Fanciulla.  BEST IMITATION OF ANNA MAGNANI EVER AWARD.  This is obviously a one time award.
  • BEST PUCCINI AWARD goes to Fanciulla from Vienna.  There is hardly even any competition.  People in the wilderness panning for gold don't really translate into factory workers, but the basic plot stayed in tact.  For once all the singers were fully up to their roles.
  • WORST EUROTRASH PRODUCTION AWARD goes to Il Trovatore from Munich.  Other contestants in the running were Hippolyte et Aricie and Die Meistersinger, but they weren't bad enough to merit an award.  Cupid popping out of an egg is just fun.
I kept up my pace of new operas for 2013. I saw opera premiers for The Secret Garden by Nolan Gasser, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Mark Adamo and Dolores Claiborne by Tobias Picker, all presented by the San Francisco Opera.  None of them were a complete bust, but I did not declare any masterpieces.  Of these three I think I liked Dolores Claiborne best.  Perhaps if I'd seen it later in the run, I would have liked it more.

Other operas that were new for me were Spontini's La Vestale, Shostakovich's The Nose, Glass' The Perfect American, Humperdinck's Königskinder, Golijov's Ainadamar, Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, Barber's A Hand of Bridge, Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, Bucci's Sweet Betsy From Pike, Barab's A Game of Chance, and Barber's Antony and Cleopatra.

  • BEST NEW (to me) OPERA AWARD goes to Golijov's Ainadamar from Opera Parallèle, a wonderful opera with dancing, singing and time travel.  It was new in 2000, which is new enough.  The Met has commissioned Golijov to produce another opera for them.

It was a fabulous year for opera. These awards reflect only my taste.


  • BEST FALSTAFF AWARD goes to the Met.  It was both visually and musically extremely satisfying, in general an excellent performance for this difficult opera.  I only added this because I saw 3 Falstaffs this year.


Dr.B said...

I attended an opera party on Thursday night where much time was spent condemning regie productions and neon Rigoletto in particular. Gilda in the trunk of a car was a bit much, but I still liked it.

aci1970 said...

I saw the HD Livestream of Il Trovatore in the summer and I attended a show on Nov, 12th so I can make some sort of comparison. Jonas was superlative, almost at his Fanciulla level( which i also attended live) Leonora was Stoyanova, much more moving and engaging and even better in lyrical passages than Harteros, Manistina absolutely tremendous both acting and singing and a new baritone as Luna which I liked a lot.
The production wins a lot seen live and Carignani was alos much better.

Dr.B said...

It is possible to over-interpret my criticisms. Kaufmann seems to raise the level of everything that surrounds them.

aci1970 said...

It's not about the criticism, i just think that Il Trovatore gains A LOT seen live. I didnt like it myself very much 1st time when I saw it streamed. And Kaufmann was much better in the Nov second run