Jonas Kaufmann returned to opera in 2017, and while he didn't appear anywhere near me, I managed to see him in three operas: Giordano's Andrea Chénier live streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper, a delayed movie broadcast of Verdi's Otello from London's Royal Opera House, and the French version of Verdi's Don Carlos presented at the Opera Bastille in Paris. These will show up below in their respective categories.
New operas for me in 2017 were Le Temple de la Gloire by Rameau which was performed by Philharmonia Baroque (L), Sorochyntsi Fair by Mussorgsky from The Opera Platform (F), Tartuffe by Kirke Mechem done at a local college (L), Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci from an old film (F), Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber from Munich (LS), The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martín y Soler performed by West Edge (L), Theodora by Handel from Glyndebourne (F), Patience by Arthur Sullivan and presented by Sacramento Lyric Opera (L), Bel Canto by Jimmy López which was shown on television (F), Flight by Jonathan Dove which was presented by Opera Parallele, (L), Autumn Sonata by Sebastian Fagerlund from Finland (F), The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès in HD from the Met (HD), Girls of the Golden West by John Adams given its world premier by the San Francisco Opera (L) and Cinderella by Alma Deutscher in its American premier at Opera San Jose.
That's 14 new operas, one more than last year. Six were live, one was an HD simulcast, one was from PBS, two were from YouTube, Oberon was a live stream, etc. I'm pretty aggressive in finding things that interest me. It's important that one of these operas is by Rameau who continues to arouse my imagination. Girls of the Golden West is the newest. Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci and Theodora by Handel, viewed for their productions, were both performed a few years earlier and are not eligible for awards for this year. I feel I still haven't seen Oberon.
The performance I most wish I had seen is Thaïs from the Met starring Ailyn Pérez and Gerald Finley. The audio was wonderful, but an HD would have been even better. Here is an explanation of my categories.
- BEST NEW (to me) OPERA AWARD I was pretty fuddy duddy here since I seem to have liked the older operas better. I can only award to performances that took place this year, so the candidates are: Le Temple de la Gloire by Rameau, The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martín y Soler, Autumn Sonata by Sebastian Fagerlund, The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès, and Girls of the Golden West by Adams. I seem not to be able to forgive Adès for the screeching sopranos. The winner is Le Temple de la Gloire by Rameau for the beauty of its music and its theatrical concept.
- BEST MOZART OPERA AWARD I found this a big year for Mozart. The candidates are Idomeneo from the Met, Don Giovanni from San Francisco, Don Giovanni from Aix-en-Provence, La Clemenza di Tito from Glyndebourne directed by Claus Guth, La Clemenza di Tito from Salzburg directed by Peter Sellars, Die Zauberflöte in German from the Met and Le Nozze di Figaro from Munich. The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martín y Soler is not by Mozart but has a libretto by da Ponte, which seems close enough to fit it into the category. The most conservative productions are for Idomeneo from the Met and Don Giovanni from San Francisco. The most interesting productions were for Don Giovanni from Aix-en-Provence and the two versions of La Clemenza di Tito. I was deeply moved by both productions of La Clemenza di Tito, each in its own special way. I'm tilting toward and award to Salzburg La Clemenza di Tito.
- BEST BEL CANTO AWARD The candidates are Semiramide from Munich and Norma from the Met. I loved both of these, but the Met's Norma was very beautiful.
- BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD The candidates are Nabucco from the Met with Placido Domingo, Il Trovatore from the ROH, Rigoletto from San Francisco with Quinn Kelsey, Rigoletto from Orange with Nadine Sierra, Otello from ROH with a debut by Jonas Kaufmann, Aida from Salzburg with a debut by Anna Netrebko, and Don Carlos from Paris in French with Jonas Kaufmann. A few of these were occasions, especially Kaufmann's first Otello and Netrebko's first Aida. It is hard to pick just one, but I will award to the unfussy Aida with the current queen of opera.
- BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD Neither of the two Wagner operas I saw merited an award. The candidates are Gounod's Roméo et Juliette from the Met, Dvorak's Rusalka from the Met, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin from the Met, Carmen from Aix-en-Provence, Weber's Oberon from Munich, Thomas's Hamlet from West Edge, and Massenet's Manon from San Francisco. This was the better of Netrebko's Eugene Onegin. Roméo et Juliette was extremely sexy. I enjoyed several of these but award to Manon. The drabness of the sets didn't really suit this opera, but the acting and musical elements were great.
- BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD The candidates are La Bohème from San Francisco, Turandot from San Francisco, Giordano's Andrea Chénier from Munich, and Giordano's Andrea Chénier from La Scala Milan. The Munich Giordano with Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros was absolutely wonderful, a complete triumph. Milan was a close second.
- BEST RICHARD STRAUSS AWARD The candidates are Der Rosenkavalier from the Met and Elektra from San Francisco with Christine Goerke. Both were wonderful, but Der Rosenkavalier was for the ages.
- BEST MODERN OPERA AWARD The candidates are Bel Canto by Jimmy López, Berg's Wozzeck with a production that may come to the Met soon, Autumn Sonata by Sebastian Fagerlund, Flight by Jonathan Dove, La Voix humaine by Poulenc, The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès and Girls of the Golden West by John Adams.. The first three are fairly subdued while The Exterminating Angel was quite intense. The pickings were pretty slim, perhaps too slim to justify an award. I've decided to come out of left field and award to Autumn Sonata. Opera used to be like this. Life used to be like this.
- BEST TRADITIONAL STAGING AWARD I award to Giordano's Andrea Chénier from La Scala Milan. This was outstanding, though a bit dark at times.
- MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE STAGING OF AN OPERA AWARD Tannhäuser from Munich. Feet.
- BEST TRANSFORMATION OF AN OPERA INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT The candidates are Carmen from Aix-en-Provence, and Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber from Munich, both of which changed traditional opera plots into condemnations of psychoanalysis, and both of which rewrote the spoken dialog. Or something. Who can be sure? The winner is Carmen. You knew that.
- BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SOPRANO Christine Goerke in Elektra
- BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MEZZO Elīna Garanča in Der Rosenkavalier
- BEST PERFORMANCE BY A TENOR Vittorio Grigolo in Roméo et Juliette
- BEST PERFORMANCE BY A BARITONE Quinn Kelsey in Rigoletto.
- BEST OPERA OF THE YEAR This has to go to Der Rosenkavalier.