It's time for the 2016 KK Opera Awards.
The most shocking event of the year is the complete absence of Jonas Kaufmann. I hardly know what to say. Get well, dear.
New operas for me in 2016 are: Champion by Terence Blanchard at Opera Parallèle, Der Vampyr by Heinrich Marschner in Berlin, Strauss's Die ägyptische Helena in Berlin, Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae in Berlin, Il matrimonio segreto by Domenico Cimarosa at CSUS, Les Indes galante, an opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau streamed from Munich, Thomas Adès' Powder her Face at West Edge, Handel's Agrippina at West Edge, Hector Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict streamed from Glyndebourne, Bright Sheng's Dream of the Red Chamber from San Francisco Opera, Stockhausen's Donnerstag aus Licht streamed from Basel, Eliogabalo by Cavalli streamed from Paris, and Sancta Susanna by Paul Hindemith in Paris.
I believe only Dream of the Red Chamber was new for everyone. That's 13 new operas, 1 more than last year and none from DVD. I wouldn't want to see the Stockhausen again, but the rest were all worthy. I am especially interested in my reaction to the Rameau. He might be considered a discovery for me.
- BEST NEW (to me) OPERA AWARD The candidates are: Der Vampyr, Die Liebe der Danae by Richard Strauss, Les Indes galante by Rameau, and Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz. I enjoyed all of these but found the Berlioz especially charming. I would happily see this again.
- BEST MODERN OPERA The candidates are: Champion, Powder her Face from West Edge, L'Amour de loin from the Met, and Dream of the Red Chamber from San Francisco. Dream of the Red Chamber was pleasing, but L'Amour was the only home run. It is simply an extraordinary achievement. We had a much broader selection last year. I left out Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk from Munich because all the others are 21st century.
- BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD The candidates are Handel's Agrippina from West Edge, Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno from Aix, Cavalli's Eliogabalo from Paris, and Rameau's Les Indes Galantes from Munich. Following my own prejudices, I didn't like the staging for Eliogabalo or Il Trionfo. Both of these starred Franco Faggioli. Since it didn't win best new, I must award to Les Indes Galantes for the beauty of its musical performance.
- BEST BEL CANTO AWARD The candidates are Roberto Devereux by Donizetti from the Met, Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti from the ROH, Don Pasquale by Donizetti from San Francisco, La Favorite, by Donizetti from Munich and Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini from Dublin. The singing in Favorite was fabulous, but the staging made nonsense of the plot. I sort of enjoyed the bizarre Lucia staging, but not enough to award to it. Hands down the greatest bel canto performance of the year was Roberto Devereux with Sondra Radvanovsky, Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien. A truly great performance.
- BEST MOZART OPERA AWARD I enjoyed Simon Keenlyside's Don Giovanni, but I find I don't want to award in this category this year.
- BEST WAGNER OPERA AWARD perhaps in my lifetime goes to Tristan und Isolde from the Metropolitan Opera. Such a spectacularly beautiful performance is simply not to be imagined. I also saw a film from 5 years ago of Die Meistersinger with Gerald Finley which makes an excellent runner up.
- BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD There are only two candidates: Un Ballo in Maschera from the Bayerische Staatsoper and Don Carlo from San Francisco. Without any particular enthusiasm I choose Don Carlo.
- BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD The candidates include some French operas: Bizet's The Pearl Fishers from the Met,
Bizet's Carmen in San Francisco, Gounod's
Faust from Salzburg, Massenet's Werther from the ROH,
Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz from Glyndebourne. I particularly loved the Met's The Pearl Fishers, so the award goes there.
- BEST RICHARD STRAUSS AWARD offers a lot of candidates: Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Die ägyptische Helena, and Die Liebe der Danae, all from the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Elektra from the Metropolitan Opera. The Elektras were a virtual tie with a small edge to Berlin. Considering how much I love Strauss, I should have enjoyed this category a lot more.
- BEST JANÁČEK OPERA AWARD The candidates are Jenůfa from the San Francisco Opera, The Cunning Little Vixen from West Edge and Vĕc Makropulos also from the San Francisco. All three of these were very special. Nadja Michael was a particularly fabulous Emilia Marty, but the award must go to the powerful, almost overwhelming Jenůfa led by Karita Mattila. If truth be told, I would not want to have missed any of these. Modern conductors seem to understand him more than Strauss.
- BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD The candidates are Andrea Chénier by Giordano from the San Francisco Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni from Paris, Manon Lescaut by Puccini from the Met and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini from the LA Opera. I enthusiastically award to Cavalleria Rusticana in Paris.
- BEST HORROR OPERA must go to Marschner's Der Vampyr from the Komische Oper Berlin. I didn't expect to give this award again, but there it is. There were axes, guns, wooden stakes, people screaming, vampires, basically all the components of a good horror movie. It has to win some kind of award. I think maybe people used to have more fun with opera. We do wish to mention a runner up: Hindemith's Sancta Susannah in Paris. We had rather spectacular nudity and fornicating with a crucifix.
- MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE STAGING OF AN OPERA AWARD How does The Queen of Spades get to be about Tchaikovsky? No idea what this means.
- BEST TRANSFORMATION OF AN OPERA INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT This award must go to another Claus Guth production, Salome from Berlin. Instead of Herodias getting rid of John the Baptist through her daughter, we have Salome getting revenge on Herod, her sexual tormentor. Instead of the Bible, we are in a men's clothing store. No necrophilia, no striptease, none of the usual nastiness.
- BEST OPERA OF THE YEAR goes to Tristan. Seldom have I felt such love for a performance of any opera. Bravi tutti.