In honor of Verdi's birthday I have selected a list of my favorite performances throughout the life of the blog.
We must begin with Anna Netrebko in the Willy Decker production of La Traviata in 2006. She is the only one I have truly loved in this production. An abstract production requires active and exciting performers in the lead roles, which we certainly had here with Anna and Rolando Villazon.
I got very excited over Macbeth in 2008 from the Met with Maria Guleghina. This was a new production, and I think perhaps I still prefer Maria in this role.
That same year was a great excitement when I saw Aida at the Arena di Verona. Amonasro was Ambrogio Maestri, but everyone else I did not know. No matter. The thrill of the Arena di Verona lies in the space itself. Such massive scale for Aida cannot help but be thrilling.
Other Aidas have been excellent. In 2017 Netrebko's version from Salzburg was in an unusual production which moved us to a modern middle eastern country. That same year featured Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili in the standard Met production. They were gorgeous together, but the performance was marred by some very bad singing from Aleksandrs Antonenko. Casting Verdi is difficult.
The Met brought us a regie production of Un Ballo in Maschera in 2012 which starred Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez, Stephanie Blythe and Kathleen Kim. This would be a very hard cast to top. The singing was spectacular.
The Verdi bicentennial in 2013 brought many wonderful performances, but my favorites starred the fabulous duo of Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros. From Salzburg we saw Don Carlo performed with "intensity and excitement."
The other Verdi with Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros came from Munich. This was the best production I have seen of La Forza del Destino with all the confusing action very carefully laid out. Our stars have great stage rapport.
The final great performance of 2013 was the magnificent Falstaff from the Metropolitan starring Ambrigio Maestri. Sir John is staying in a hotel with beautiful rooms. Ambrogio is the person you want for the role of Falstaff, and the supporting cast were all excellent.
I seem to have failed to include an Il Trovatore. My favorite seems to be Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the Met in 2015. This is some of Anna's best singing and also one of Dmitri's last performances.
My last great Verdi performance for this particular list must be Otello from the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2018 with our duo of Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros. Gerald Finley, a great singing actor, rounded out the trio. This is the most serious Otello I have seen.
Most of these selections are either available from Met on Demand or can be purchased as DVDs. Enjoy.