It's time for the 2014 KK Opera Awards.
I am actually astounded by how many operas I have added to my operas seen list this year.
We will start with things that are not actually new but were new to me: Ercole Amante by Cavalli on DVD, Matilde di Shabran by Rossini on DVD, I due Foscari by Verdi from ROH, Rita by Donizetti live, Partenope by Handel live, Die schweigsame Frau by Strauss streamed, Les mamelles de Tirésias by Poulenc live, and the classic American opera Susanah by Floyd live. I can't decide about Show Boat. Does the movie count? I viewed Barber's Anthony and Cleopatra on YouTube for the first time.
New for everyone or practically everyone: The Minotaur by Birtwistle on DVD, Hydrogen Jukebox by Glass live, The End of the Affair by Heggie live, Death and the Powers by Machover simulcast from Dallas, Anya17 by Gorb live, 27 by Gordon live, and Brokeback Mountain by Wuorinen streamed.
If you count Show Boat, this is 17 operas. I think I am impressed. I traveled only for 27.
- BEST NEW (to me) OPERA AWARD is a tough one. I am torn between 27, The End of the Affair and Death and the Powers. 27 and The Affair are traditional modern with strong acting and production values, but Death seemed truly ground breaking. There was a lot of good stuff here, but I am going to award to Death and the Powers which may possibly be my first science fiction opera. Also I due Foscari turned out to be better than I imagined it would be.
- BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD must go to Simon Boccanegra in Venice. This was a big year for Verdi for me with 10 performances, only 2 of which were La Traviata. I awarded to La Fenice because of the dramatic intensity and sheer overwhelming presence of the performances. They made me love the characters in this opera. It's a very important opera for Venice.
- BEST VERDI SINGING AWARD must go to the ever astounding Anna Netrebko for her performances in Il Trovatore from Salzburg and Macbeth in HD. She never ceases to amaze.
- BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD must go to Partenope by Handel. My Baroque experiences were limited this year but nevertheless Partenope must win an award. I think it should also win for...
- BEST TRANSFORMATION OF AN OPERA INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. It was enormous fun from beginning to end, and the music was still excellent.
- BEST BEL CANTO AWARD has to go to Joyce DiDonato's La Cenerentola from the Met with some of the best singing I've heard, but there was a lot of good Rossini this year. I especially liked both of Cecilia Bartoli's recent DVD releases--Otello and Le Comte Ory--but the performances didn't actually happen in 2014.
- BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD goes, of course, to Werther from the Met starring our boy Jonas Kaufmann. He transforms into this character. The production clarified the action extremely well.
- BEST PUCCINI AWARD is not given with unqualified enthusiasm and goes to the ROH Manon Lescaut starring Jonas Kaufmann and Kristine Opolais. The production even with a lot of censorship was still pretty slutty. This leads to curiosity and a lack of satisfaction. The singing was outstanding, but are we to believe that Manon must become a porn star? I thought she loved money. This award is for the singing and the bravery of performing an entire scene 20 feet in the air.
- BEST RICHARD STRAUSS AWARD in the Strauss year must go to Der Rosenkavalier from Glyndebourne. It was an unusual staging that worked for me emotionally. That's what I ask. Do whatever you want with my beloved operas, but the emotion must still work. It did here. I liked the Salzburg, too, but not as much. There was a lot of Strauss that I missed, including especially Anja Harteros in Arabella.
- BEST ACTING IN AN OPERA AWARD goes to Isabel Leonard in the Met's Le Nozze di Figaro. Her Cherubino was a delight. The rest of this opera was quite nice as well, though this one is still not my favorite. Ailyn Pérez gets an honorable mention for her streamed performance of La Traviata from the ROH. It was very touching.
- BEST SURPRISE is both Verdi in Italy operas. We forget that we experience opera in a fairly static context, played by orchestras that digest all periods and styles into a single post romantic sound. We forget it until we experience something completely different. There are still places where Verdi remains Italian.
- WORST EUROTRASH PRODUCTION AWARD doesn't really deserve to be awarded this year. The Il Trovatore as museum tour from Salzburg was very silly but not really ghastly. The clownish Der Rosenkavalier from Malmö might be bad enough. Perhaps if I'd seen Manon Lescaut from Munich.
There can be no best Wagner award because I have seen no Wagner at all this year. Unless I go to Meistersinger on Wednesday.
2014 was not the spectacular opera year that 2013 was. Perhaps if Dresden had chosen to stream, or Munich had picked different things to show us.