Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Opera Year in Review KK Awards

One of my activities for this year was to research the career of Peter Sellars.  This involved some new works I had not seen before:  Weill's Die sieben Todsünden, and Stravinsky's Perséphone The Weill was filmed rather like a song cycle, so perhaps I have still not seen it staged.  Other films that were seen included Sellars' staging of Giulio Cesare.  The performances generally occurred before our calendar year and don't get awards.  In Europe he is a significant figure, so it is best to try to understand his works.  I gave him mixed reviews.  You can find these by using the Peter Sellars label.

I also decided that my complete ignorance of the works of Meyerbeer needed to be dealt with.  Here is an explanation of my categories.

BEST NEW OPERA AWARD:  So who deserves an award?  Of the new works I am torn between Lessons in Love and Violence and Marnie.  I enjoyed Marnie a lot so I award to it.  Isabel Leonard is always fabulous and carried this production.

BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD   Since I saw only one opera from the Baroque, the award must go to Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea from Salzburg with Sonya Yoncheva and Kate Lindsey.  It was beautifully sung and fun to watch.

BEST MOZART OPERA AWARD   Again I saw only one opera by Mozart and must award to Cosi fan Tutte from the Met.  I enjoyed the new production, especially the arrogant and absurdly self-confident males. How could any woman reject me?

BEST FRENCH GRAND OPERA AWARD  I researched Meyerbeer a bit and saw his Le Prophete from Toulouse and Les Huguenots from Paris.  Both have plots from the European religious wars which are hard for modern people.  Meyerbeer founded Grand Opera and Les Huguenots is very much esteemed among his works.  I was there because Lisette Oropesa replaced Diana Damrau.  She was beautiful.  I'm thinking of moving on to his DinorahThe award goes to Les Huguenots.

BEST BEL CANTO OPERA AWARD  Bel canto was represented by Rossini's Semiramide from the Met, Donizetti's L’Elisir d’Amore from the Met with Pretty Yende and Matthew Polenzani, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Madrid with Lisette Oropesa and Javier Camarena, and Donizetti's Roberto Devereux from SFO starring Sondra Radvanovsky.  Semiramide suffered from comparison with last year's version from Munich where I loved hearing Semiramide sung by a mezzo.   For me the award is a tossup between Lucia and Roberto Devereux.  Sondra Radvanovsky in Roberto Devereaux was simply wonderful.  With so many candidates I must award to Roberto Devereux for the heroine's spectacular acting and singing and for the overall high quality of the performance.

BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD  The nominees for best performance of a Verdi opera in 2018 are Il Corsaro from Valencia with Michael Fabiano, Rigoletto from the ROH, Aida from the Met with Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili, Otello from Munich with Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros and Gerald Finley, Luisa Miller from the Met with Placido Domingo and Sonya Yoncheva, and La Traviata from the Met with Diana Damrau.  We have simply too many riches.  Verdi is always special, and while I enjoyed La Traviata and loved Aida, Otello was deeply moving with expert performances by all three leads.  Can anything be more wonderful than lots of fabulous Verdi?  For bringing true greatness I must award to Otello.

BEST WAGNER OPERA AWARD The candidates are Das Rheingold from SFO, Die Walküre from SFO, Die Walküre from Munich, Parsifal from Munich with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, and the blue Lohengrin from Bayreuth with Anja Harteros and Piotr Beczala. There were no home runs in this crowd.  It was sad for me that I missed half of the San Francisco Ring. Too many plot points were missing from the staging of Parsifal.  In spite of the fact that the blue Lohengrin was also the bondage Lohengrin, I have decided to award to Lohengrin.  Piotr was terrific in this role.

BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD. The nominees are Massanet's Cendrillon from the Met with Joyce DiDonato, Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila from the Met with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna, and Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades from Salzburg with Brandon Jovanovich.  I enjoyed very much all three of these operas but adored the wonderful sexiness of Samson et Dalila and award to it.  I did like Brandon Jovanovich in Queen of Spades, though.

BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD  The nominees are Puccini's Tosca from the Met with Sonya Yoncheva, Puccini's La Boheme from the Met also with Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano, Cav/Pag from SFO which successfully merged into one opera, and Puccini's La Fanciulla del West from the Met with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jonas Kaufmann.  I think Jonas wins again.

BEST MODERN OPERA AWARD  The candidates are Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence, Barber's Vanessa from Glyndebourne, Strauss' Arabella from SFO, Muhly's Marnie from the Met with Isabel Leonard and Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life from SFO.  There's some good stuff in this short list, but I turned out not to like Heggie's opera, and found Arabella a let down after the Munich version. So I award to Marnie.

BEST REVIVAL OF A HISTORICAL MASTERPIECE AWARD:  This is added to recognize how much I liked the revival of Barber's Vanessa from Glyndebourne.  This opera tends to disappear into the mists but was very well done here.

BEST/WORST REGIE PRODUCTION AWARD  The regie nominees are Verdi's Otello from Munich, Monteverdi's Poppea from Salzburg, Wagner's Lohengrin from Bayreuth, Wagner's Parsifal from Munich, Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte from the Met, and Wagner's Die Walküre from MunichFrom this bunch I must say all the Wagner was terrible but sometimes amusing.  Parsifal was the worst.  Dear Regisseurs, Wagner's operas are generally not comedies.  I loved the Cosi even if it was too busy, but the production for Otello transformed the opera to focus on Desdemona and the love story.  So BEST is Otello and WORST is Parsifal.

BEST SINGING AWARD Lisette Oropesa.  It was her year.

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