Sunday, December 28, 2008

Favorites for Year 2008

This year I spent a month in Florence as part of a class in Renaissance Art.  I also went to New York.  I reviewed 38 performances including 9 DVDs, 11 live in HDs and 18 live performances.

Favorite Performances

  • 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. Met HD
  • 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 live.   Local
  • 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 at the Metropolitan Opera live was huge, almost overwhelming. Travel
  • (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.  Met HD
  • Rinaldo in Zurich **  While in Zurich to see Carmen with Jonas, I also saw Handel's Rinaldo done entirely without countertenors.  One doesn't miss them.  Travel

  • 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.  It's an amazing experience to see opera in the arena.  Travel
  • Simon Boccanegra at SFO **  This performance with the magnificent Dmitri Hvorostovsky successfully cured both my long time loathing of this opera and the decades long Verdi curse at the San Francisco Opera.    Local
  • Two versions of Carmen with Jonas Kaufmann, one in Zurich with Vesselina Kasarova and the other on DVD with Anna Caterina Antonacci were highlights. Given free choice, I would pick the DVD version. Both were original and fascinating insights on the opera, and Jonas is the best Don Jose ever.  Travel   DVD

  • 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.  I saw a lot of other modern opera, including Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw, Doctor Atomic, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Candide, but none of them truly hit the spot.   Local

  • 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.   Local
  • Special mention must be made of 2008 as the Year of Renée Fleming. In September she appeared in her own Metropolitan Opera Gala in gowns designed especially for her. More dress designs for Renée also appeared in Thais in December. As if that weren't enough, she also produced a superlative new recording of The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss. Viva Renée.Met HD

Singer of the Year

Renée Fleming was everywhere.

New to Me Opera

  1. Handel's Rinaldo (1711) live in Zurich. **
  2. Handel's Ariodante (1735) live at SFO. **
  3. Korngold's Die Tote Stadt (1920) live at SFO. **
  4. Massenet's Thais (1894) was HD from the Met. **
  5. Paulus's The Village Singer (1979) was live in Sacramento. **
  6. Prokofiev's The Gambler () was live at the Met though 1/2.**
  7. Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges () was live in Berkeley. **
  8. Schubert's Fierrabras (1823) was a DVD with Jonas Kaufmann.
  9. Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George musical (1984) was live in New York. **
  10. Wallace's Bonesetter's Daughter (2008) live at SFO. This is new to everyone **

##20 top 20 all time
** live, live stream or live in HD

Things recommended to buy


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