Friday, February 24, 2017

Favorites by Year

This is just something fun and is constantly a work in progress.  I went through the blog from the beginning to find the things that stood out in my memory.  I am only including the things I liked and have trimmed it down to no more than 10 per year.  If you're looking for pans, this isn't the place.  I like a lot of stuff, but you will notice that La Boheme only appears twice.

My goal with opera is simply to fall in love.  I prefer new opera performances because I'm not very likely to fall in love with people from the long ago past.


** live or HD

2005


I was still working when I began blogging.  It was a present from my son.

  • (CB) Zurich Giulio Cesare  **  I traveled to Zurich on one of my many trips to see Cecilia Bartoli.  This time she was doing Handel's Giulio Cesare in a relatively sedate production.  The Egyptians wore blue and white striped outfits.  Cecilia was incredible.  By this time I had been a fanatical fan of Cecilia for over 10 years.  I still love her best.
  • Licitra's Tosca in Washington  **  Salvatore Licitra performed Tosca at the Washington National Opera.  I have a soft place in my heart for tenors.

  • The Pearl Fishers in San Francisco **  Bizet's Pearl Fishers appeared at the San Francisco Opera (SFO) long before it came to the Met.  What I appear to have enjoyed most were the very sexy Charles Castronovo and Norah Amsellem.
  • (CB) Opera Proibita, both live and on CD. ** Berkeley  This is the long ago time when Cecilia Bartoli still came to Berkeley virtually every year.  I was the only one who noticed that she wasn't just waving her arms randomly but was instead conducting the orchestra.



  • Cecilia Bartoli was singer of the year.

People say I like everything, but actually that's not true.  This year I didn't much like:  The Rape of Lucretia because of the disturbing mixture of pagan history and Christian commentary; The Dangerous Liaisons by Susa is just musically boring; Doctor Atomic where the characters never seem to be talking to one another.

For more years see below the jump.


2006


This is the year of my four month stay in London. After that I retired from my job.

  • The Bartered Bride at the ROH with Charles Mackerras conducting ** This is one of the operas I sang in when I lived in Germany, and Charles Mackerras's version is definitive.  Long ago he came to San Francisco to conduct.  I remember vividly when he conducted Der Rosenkavalier in SFO.
  • La Leggenda di Sakùntala in Rome [I just found out this was the first performance of the original version of this opera after the score was found in 2005.]  **  I popped down to Rome.  Rome Opera is stagione, which means at any given time only one opera is playing.

  • (AN) The Salzburg La Traviata with Netrebko and Villazon DVD 
  • This production hasn't worked for the other sopranos like it worked for Netrebko.  See this one, skip the others.  It is simply spectacularly good.  This was not my first Netrebko.  I was already a huge fan long before I started blogging.  As a long time subscriber to the San Francisco Opera, I first saw her in Ruslan and Lyudmila in 1995.  I vividly remember her bursting on the stage as Musetta in La Boheme, probably in 2004.  She was very memorable from the  beginning. 




  • (AN) Anna Netrebko's Manon does Hollywood in LA **  After seeing her in San Francisco and on DVD for years, I flew to Los Angeles to see her Manon.  I wasn't sure she could do this, but she very much exceeded my expectations.  Netrebko is so insanely famous now because of her work in this period.  This production with the same cast appears on DVD from Berlin. 
  • (AN) Netrebko's Russian Album CD If you haven't heard this, you simply have no idea.  It is great Russian music by great Russian artists. 
  • Singer of the year goes to Anna Netrebko hands down.

I didn't care for the L'Orfeo from the ENO because the staging was incoherent, or for Sophie's Choice for bad vocal writing and just bad music.



2007 A very good year


This was the year of the beginning of the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts.  I was homeless and traveled to New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Zurich, Santa Fe and Glimmerglass.  My fascination with Jonas Kaufmann also starts here.




  • (CB) Semele in Zurich **  Almost immediately after seeing Semele at City Opera in New York with Vivica Genaux, I flew to Zurich to see Cecilia Bartoli in the same role.  In New York it was the production.  In Zurich it was the star who bounced on the bed during her cadenza.  After these two, I never need to see another.
  • (JK) Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan in Fidelio in Zurich **  It was a coincidence that I saw JK as Florestan. I was there and had nothing to do.  "A Florestan to die for." This was the first time Jonas Kaufmann separated from the crowd for me.
  • Iphigénie en Tauride at SFO. ** This was great because of the wonderful performance of Susan Graham.  San Frandisco still puts on world class opera.




  • Platée at Santa Fe **  After the tour was over, I stayed on for Platée, a wonder of cross-dressing and people appearing mysteriously from the ceiling.  This was my first live Rameau.
  • Orphée by Glass at Glimmerglass ** Actually the whole festival was very special.  This was the year of 400 years of Monteverdi's Orfeo, and how could I not go?  The other operas were Monteverdi, Offenbach and Gluck.  Orphée is the Glass opera most like a regular opera.  The text is all from the French film of the same name which I only saw after I had seen the opera.
  • Let's give best singing to Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

I didn't like Appomattox.  I understand it's been revised.  I suggested an opera about Mary Todd Lincoln.




2008


This year I spent a month in Florence as part of a class in Renaissance Art.  I also went to New York.



  • Guleghina in Macbeth HD  **  Early in the HD series from the Met Maria Guleghina sang Lady Macbeth.  Unlike most singers who take on the role, it was well within her grasp.

  • Dawn Upshaw live in Berkeley **  Dawn and her unusual orchestra performed pieces by Stephen Hartke, whale singing by George Crumb, and a personal favorite, Ayre (2004) by Osvaldo Golijov.  It's rare to hear anything this modern.
  • Satyagraha in NYC **  This was my second experience of this work.  It is not possible to duplicate the effect on ones brain of the first experience of it.  The production was huge, almost overwhelming.
  • (ND) Natalie Dessay in Daughter of the Regiment HD  **  This is my favorite Natalie Dessay performance ever.  Everything was at its best.  One could truly adore such an artist.  A similar but not identical performance is on DVD from Paris.  My love and admiration for Natalie Dessay increased this year.


  • Rinaldo in Zurich **  While in Zurich to see Carmen,I also saw Handel's Rinaldo done entirely without countertenors.  One doesn't miss them.


  • Aida in the Arena di Verona **  As part of my class in Italian art, we attended an opera at the Arena di Verona.  This performance featured sets from the original Aida shown here at the beginning of the 20th century.

  • Simon Boccanegra at SFO **  This performance with the magnificent Dmitri Hvorostovsky and our new maestro Luisotti successfully cured both my long time loathing of this opera and the decades long Verdi curse at the San Francisco Opera. 



  • Bonesetter's Daughter at SFO ** Most of the critics didn't like this, but I found it very enjoyable with its mixture of oriental and western musical styles.  It's based on a novel by Amy Tan and drew a largely Chinese audience.



  • Die Tote Stadt at SFO **  There were idiotic discussions about the coincidence of a red haired female and the Pre-Raphaelites.  Honestly.  Does that look Pre-Raphaelite to you?  In spite of this it is actually a lovely opera which I have only seen this once.
  • Singer of the year has to be Natalie Dessay.

One memorable event happened when I flew in the dead of winter to Chicago, found that the Cleveland airport was closed, and flew back home, instead of seeing Jonas Kaufmann in Das Lied von der Erde.




2009


This year I went to Munich because both Jonas Kaufmann and Cecilia Bartoli were there at the same time.  I continue to wish this happened more often.


  • Porgy and Bess at SFO ** Musically it was very exciting and starred Eric Owens* and Laquita Mitchell* in their SFO debuts.  This has become a DVD and plays occasionally on PBS.


  • (ND) Natalie Dessay's La Traviata at Santa Fe **  She jumped from box to box more than could possibly be imagined.  I don't see how they could get anyone else to do this.  This was Natalie's first Traviata, and Saimir Pirgu was her Alfredo.

  • (CB) Sacrificium CD  I think this is my favorite recital recording by Cecilia Bartoli.





  • (JK) Munich Lohengrin ** There is a film of this with Anja Harteros, but my live performance had Emily Magee.  I enjoy Munich quite a lot.  Live in the theater there were things going on at the sides of the stage that cannot be seen on the film.


  • (CB) Sacrificium Tournee **  Cecilia Bartoli had cancelled the official opening, making this performance in Munich the opening of her tour of Sacrificium.  This is a spectacular program and she gave herself some fun costumes for her imitation of a castrato.

  •  Jenůfa at the Bayerische Staatsoper  ** with my first experience of Eva-Maria Westbroek as Jenůfa.  Another treat was the appearance of old favorite Helga Dernesch as the grandmother.
  • All Purcell concert at Mondavi **  This was Philharmonia Baroque and included a terrific Dido and Aeneas starring Susan Graham.  The rest of the program was filled out with more pieces by Purcell, a first for me.
  • Johan Botha's Otello at SFO ** Nicola Luisotti has once again broken the SFO Verdi curse.  Soon we will not remember that it ever existed.
  • I must award the singer prize for this year to Jonas Kaufmann AND Ceclia Bartoli.

I didn't like at all La Sonnambula in HD.  The singing was fine but the staging was incoherent.



2010


This year I went to Paris because both Jonas Kaufmann and Cecilia Bartoli were there at the same time.  I saw several other performances while I was there

  • Fleming and Graham Rosenkavalier HD   **  I saw them together years ago in San Francisco, so for me it was a treat to watch this pairing again.  Edo de Waart who was once with the San Francisco Symphony conducted.


  • Carmen in HD   ** This was one of the most spectacular performances in the entire HD series with beautiful singing, great atmosphere, and spectacular acting.  Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna were surprisingly sympatico.  This is one of the great things.




  • (JK) Werther at Bastille **  I gasped and carried on throughout the opera from my fabulous seat in what we would call the Grand Tier at the Paris Opera Bastille.  The musical transformation of this opera was complete, and I have loved it ever since.
  • (ND) La Sonnambula at Bastille **  While in Paris, I added a ticket to see Natalie Dessay in a traditional production of the sleep walker.  This was my introduction to Javier Camarena who was an excellent operatic boy friend.





  • Renée Fleming's Armida in HD  **  Zimmerman crashed in Sonnambula, but the production here was a delight.  And how can you not like 6 Rossini tenors?





  • (AN) Netrebko's Don Pasquale HD  **  This is the first time I have thought Don Pasquale was funny.  It also featured the great male duo Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien.


  • (CB) Clari DVD  Bizarre and entirely unlikely.  But fun.
  • I am going to give the singing prize to Elīna Garanča.

I didn't really like Placido Domingo or the rest of the cast in Simon Boccanegra in HD.  




2011




  • (ND) Natalie as Lucia HD  **  I loved Natalie Dessay in this.  When she comes out at the end you believe she has just murdered someone.  I feel grateful to the Met for letting me see this wonderful performance.  I may never forgive the Met for making her the hostess for Netrebko.
  • (JK) Die Walküre in New York **  Lovely opera with Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Debbie Voigt.  Not my favorite though.  There's the machine, after all, and I was in at the beginning of James Morris as Wotan.



  • Capriccio HD  **  It's hard to decide whether or not one likes this opera.  People argue over which is more important, words or music.  In opera you would not want to do without either.  I've seen some pretty spectacular versions, though, all surprisingly in this production.  We had Kiri te Kanawa in SF.





  • Griselda at Santa Fe **  This is by Vivaldi and is a terrible opera, saved only by the amazing singing of Isabel Leonard.


  • Jaroussky in Berkeley ** Apparently for love alone Philippe Jaroussky came to Berkeley to appear with Apollo's Fire.  I'm starting to like the new Baroque music AND countertenors.  It was a wonderful concert.


  • Il Postino on TV  This came suddenly on my television and starred Placido Domingo.  It's an unusual opera because the two main roles are both tenors.  It is sad that the composer Daniel Catán died relatively young.
  • The singing award must go to Isabel Leonard.

I went to LA to see Il Turco in Italia but was disappointed.  This is also the year I missed the San Francisco Opera Ring for no sensible reason.  It's returning in 2019, and I already have my ticket.


2012


My opera viewings began to include live streams on my home computer, including Cecilia Bartoli's Giulio Cesare from Salzburg, her Otello from Zurich and I Capuleti e i Montecchi from Munich.  I traveled to Santa Fe, too.  I got in trouble with readers for saying Cecilia had gotten married on flimsy proof.  It turned out to be true.  This was also the year Joyce DiDonato performed at the Grammys.




  • (CD) Otello ossia il Moro di Venezia DVD and medici.tv  ** The racial prejudice aspect of the Otello story is far stronger in this early version by Rossini.  Cecilia Bartoli was very busy that year.  This opera streamed from Zurich, and John Osborn sang Otello in dark makeup.



  • (CB) Giulio Cesare from Salzburg.  ** Cecilia Bartoli began her term as Intendant in Salzburg with this opera which also streamed.  It was insane but entertaining.  It became a DVD and was nominated for a Grammy.
  • Einstein on the Beach **  A piece of great historical importance that belongs in everyone's experiences.  I saw it in Berkeley, but it now exists on DVD.  Unlike most operas, the opera and the production are one.








  • (JK) The original Ariadne from Salzburg. **  This is a play by Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, followed by an opera.  It's something you want to see, but not necessarily something you want to see again.  I saw it in live stream, but it is now a DVD.


  • Masked Ball in HD  **  Dmitri, Sondra, Marcello Alvarez, Kathleen Kim.  I especially liked Marcello.
  • The singing prize must go to Leah Crocetto.

The Met completed the machine Ring with Die Götterdämmerung HD **  It didn't happen for me.  Natalie crashed out in Traviata.  I watched Katarina Wagner's Meistersinger but still don't understand it.



2013  outstanding Verdi year


This year was 200 years of both Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner.  The only Wagner of interest was the Met Parsifal.  In sharp contrast I experienced quite a lot of great Verdi.  Kaufmann and Harteros together brought me Il Trovatore, Don Carlo and La Forza del Destino.  The Met brought me Rigoletto and a magnificent Falstaff.  Kaufmann released Wagner albums and a Verdi album, Netrebko released a Verdi album.  This was a truly great year for some other things, too.

  • (JK) Parsifal in HD  **  I stayed all the way to the end, which is odd for an opera I've always hated.  Everything worked together to create a performance which even I loved.


  • Verdi-Neon Rigoletto in HD  **  I adored the flashing neon in the last act that accompanied the storm music, but Gilda in a car trunk?  Maybe not.  It does make it more plausible that Rigoletto mistakes her for the duke.
  • Ainadamar in San Francisco ** Opera Parallèle brought excitement and joy and a completely coherent production for this complex opera.  Do this opera in your town.  You will love it.


  • American Bach Soloists in Davis **  I discovered this group this year, and they play very close to home over in Davis.  The consistent high quality of their work is encouraging, They aren't just named after Bach, they also play a lot of Bach.  Occasionally they perform a bit of opera in concert format.


  • (CB) Cecilia Bartoli's Norma CD  I was irresistibly drawn to this recording and played it over and over.  I could not be more amazed.  Cecilia recorded the new critical edition, of course, instead of the traditional late romantic orchestration.


  • (CB) Norma in Salzburg **  In fact I was so amazed I traveled to Salzburg to see it for myself.  This modern regie production was very effective and completely right for herself.  It was a revolutionary transformation of a staid favorite, turning straw figures into passionate human beings..




  • The Nose in HD  **  The opera was dominated by the production, but Paulo Szot brought a needed human dimension.


  • The singing prize is hard this year.  No offense, Cecilia, but I must award to Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros for so much wonderful Verdi.

This was such a fabulous year I have nothing to disparage and cannot reduce the list to 10.  Since then I have felt an emotional let down.  I want endless thrills.



2014


There were some interesting new operas including Death and the Powers, The End of the Affair, 27, Anya17, and Brokeback Mountain.  This was the Strauss year, but you will see no Strauss below at all.  Renée Fleming sang at the Superbowl.

  • (JK) Kaufmann's Winterreise CD  This is my favorite Jonas Kaufmann CD.  It's a masterpiece.  On the internet people complain that it doesn't sound like what they're used to but seem to forget that one singer isn't supposed to sound like another.




  • (JK) Werther in HD  **  With the same cast as Paris, the effect was often quite different.  In Paris all was clean and spare.  At the Met every detail of the story was played out on our large screens.  Lisette Oropesa as Sophie was the biggest improvement over Paris.
  • (CB) Cecilia Bartoli's DVD of Le Comte Ory  God is love, therefore messing around is the path to salvation.  I found this whole production and cast, which included Javier Camarena, much funnier than the Met version.




  • Dialogues of the Carmelites in Saint Louis ** It is a very long time since I have seen this opera, and it is hard to understand why.  It is a great work which is always performed in the vernacular of the country where it is performed in approved translations.  This was the composer's wishes.


  • Glyndebourne Der Rosenkavalier streamed ** A huge scandal surrounded this performance so it was especially fun to get to see it on live stream.  There's some misunderstanding.  Women aren't cast as men because they look like men.  Women are cast as men because they don't look like men.  If they looked like men, what would be the point?   Are we clear about that?




  • (AN) Il Trovatore from Salzburg **  This is the production where we are visitors in an art museum and the characters hang in pictures on the walls.  Anna Netrebko was Leonora, Placido Domingo was the count and Meli was the troubadour.  Her name tag says A Netrebko.



  • (AN) Netrebko's Macbeth in HD  **  Great Netrebko with guns and gangsters.  I hoped she would part company with this opera because everyone seems to oversing.
  • Partenope at SFO ** A Eurotrash production is often the thing that makes a Handel opera tolerable.  This one was exciting and just plain fun from beginning to end.  We have two picture posts here and here.
  • With 2 home runs I must award the singing prize to Anna Netrebko.

The Minotaur was ruled not an opera because we are 50 minutes in before there is any singing. One was entertained by silliness this year.  Kaufmann and Netrebko saved the day.  I'm considering this 10 items because one is a song cycle.



2015


This was a very big year for live streaming.  This list is much too long and keeps increasing.  For me it was also the year of  Berg's Lulu.






  • (AN) Iolanta in HD   **  I was fascinated with the fact that the translation on the screen said one thing while they were actually singing something different.  We saw the Christian version while they were singing the communist libretto.  Anna Netrebko was her usual fabulous self.

  • La Donna del Lago in HD **  Not the easiest plot to follow, but glorious singing, especially from Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez.  This was one of the best operas of the year.



  • (AN) Il Trovatore in HD **  One of the truly great performances of the period covered by this blog.  It was magnificent from everyone, but especial Anna Netrebko.

  • Lulu trio--Hannigan DVD.  She toe dances for what seems like forever. I've become a Barbara Hannigan fan.
  • Lulu West Edge live **,  Very very sexy.  And then you realize that Lulu should always be just this sexy.  A transformative experience.
  • Lulu Met in HD **  Too busy but still another perspective with great musical performances.
  • Tannhäuser in HD  ** Eva-Maria Westbroek and Johan Botha.  I liked everything and everyone in this.  It is a performance that will live in your heart.
  • (JK) The Damnation of Faust from the Paris Opera ** One of the great Eurotrash productions of all time.  We people seeing the stream missed the snails copulating nonsense, but Faust as science fiction for me was fun.  Who knew there was an opera about Stephen Hawking?
  • The singing prize goes to Joyce DiDonato.  Perhaps I should have picked a Lulu.

There were strong odors emanating from the Edgar Allen Poe operas in San Francisco.


2016


  • (JK) Jonas Kaufmann at La Scala was a Fathom Events broadcast of a concert.  This is available on DVD and may be a better version than the recording.

  • Elektra ** at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin.  This was a fabulous cast, Evelyn Herlitzius, a very workable production and Donald Runnicles. This was the best of the Strauss in Berlin.


  • Elektra in HD **  The Met Elektra was close behind Berlin in excellence.


  • Roberto Devereux in HD **  This was the third in Sondra Radvanovsky's tour de force three queens cycle at the Met.  Her portrayal of Elizabeth I was spectacular.

  • Jenůfa at SFO.  **  This was the highlight of the San Francisco Opera season with Karita Mattila in peak form.



  • Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz from Glyndebourne. **  It is shocking to me that I have never seen this charming opera performed before.  The English love it because the story is from Shakespeare, and it was a Shakespeare year.


  • Tristan und Isolde in HD **  Simon Rattle conducted the most glorious Tristan of my lifetime.
  • I'm going to award the singing prize to Sondra Radvanovsky


** live, live stream or live in HD

My interest is primarily in opera that is being presented now.  It would be colossally boring for me to see the same ancient productions over and over. Nevertheless I do enjoy a surprisingly large amount of different things.

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