Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros
I am feeling a bit sad that the Bayerische Staatsoper doesn't seem to cast them opposite one another any more. I hope I'm wrong because together they have brought me some of my favorite Verdi performances.
- My first experience of this pairing was in Wagner's Lohengrin on DVD (2010). I saw this production live in Munich but with a different soprano. This is the much maligned blue t-shirt production. For me it worked and continues to be very watchable. They are two great artists with magnificent charisma who are musically and theatrically on the same page. The look may be odd, but it doesn't damage the story. This is available on DVD.
- Next they appeared together in Verdi's Don Carlo from the ROH (2013). Thomas Hampson was Rodrigo. In this wonderful opera they reign supreme. It is a traditional production. This is available on DVD.
- That same year brought me my favorite ever of Verdi's La Forza del Destino (2013) from Munich. The villain brother is played by Ludovic Tézier. Forza is very hard to stage, and I felt this version was successful by keeping the villain evil. This is available on DVD.
- Giordano's Andrea Chénier (2017) from Munich. The DVD of Kaufmann in this opera is from ROH, but I prefer this one. It shows them at the guillotine.
- And finally Verdi's Otello (2018) from Munich. This is a lot of two Germans performing the essential Italian, but I loved all of it. Unfortunately the DVD of Kaufmann's Otello is for a different performance from London, but I very much prefer this one for its tilt toward Desdemona and his relationship to her. It goes very deep.
This is the decade when Anna Netrebko moved from a lyric soprano to a Verdi spinto. This change was not to everyone's taste, but I was surprised to find that I liked her Verdi almost as much as I had liked her Donizetti. The red dress Traviata I loved so much is from the previous decade.
- I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Bellini (2012) from Munich with Vesselina Kasarova. For the lovers of wailing, this is the best. This is toward the end of Netrebko's bel canto period.
- Verdi's Il Trovatore in HD from the Met (2015). This is Dmitri Hvorostovsky's last performance in opera. He died two years later. Netrebko is becoming a Verdi soprano, and who better to share the stage with than Dmitri?
- Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in HD from the Met with Peter Mattei (2017). There are multiple versions of this opera, but I think I like this one best. As Netrebko matures, her Tatiana improves.
- Verdi's Aida from Salzburg (2017). I liked this for the exotic production where everything looks like Iran. Netrebko sang beautifully.
- Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur in HD from the Met (2019) with Anita Rachvelishvili. Piotr Beczala is a wonderful added bonus. This performance brings us a whole new generation of wailing. It is appropriate that Anna end the decade with a new female voice at her side. They were together in Aida at the Met, but the tenor spoiled the performance.
Elīna's performances are beautifully sung and magnificently acted
- Bizet's Carmen (2010) in HD from the Met with Roberto Alagna begins the decade. Will she ever top this astoundingly sexy performance? This is on DVD.
- Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (2017) in HD from the Met. This was for Renée Fleming's retirement from opera where they pulled out all the stops. Günther Groissböck as Ochs was an added bonus. Both acting and singing were magnificent.
Cecilia began the decade with a Grammy for Sacrificium. Shortly after that she became the manager of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Of her triumphs I enjoyed these most. Her contract in Salzburg continues to 2026 while she has added Opera de Monte Carlo to her future management duties.
- Handel's Giulio Cesare at Salzburg (2012) in a regie production. This production made it to DVD, and the DVD was nominated for a Grammy. For some reason not known to me this opera is often regarded as a comedy with silly action. In spite of that the musical elements are spectacularly beautiful. Cecilia singing with a bag over her head may be going too far.
- Bellini's Norma I experienced first as a CD and then in live performance at Salzburg (2013) in her second year as Intendant. This was a critical edition performance which was subsequently performed in various places in Europe but has not become a DVD. The regie production moved us to WWII.
- Handel's Ariodante (2017) from Salzburg. This is Cecilia having fun with gender issues. She begins with a beard and wearing a suit of armor. She takes off her armor, dances, changes into a dress, and eventually removes her beard. She blows smoke rings, or at least mimes blowing smoke rings since we see no smoke. The singing is lovely. The beard idea has found its way onto her latest album.
- Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri (2018) from Salzburg. Of the bunch, this is my favorite. Cecilia rides a camel, takes a bath, rejects the baritone and talks the tenor into returning to Italy, all in great comic style. Cecilia sings wonderfully, acts as only she can and looks gorgeous.
Nina Stemme is an almost incidental singer, but nevertheless there are a few performances by her that have completely charmed me. [That sounds worse than I meant it.]
- Wagner's Ring in San Francisco (2010). Die Walküre is my favorite Wagner and this one was fun.
- Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (2013) from Vienna with Jonas Kaufmann. He didn't just sing with Anja that year. I have watched this a few times and never fail to feel the romance between these two great artists.
- Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (2016) from the Met with Stuart Skelton. I realize I'm not supposed to, but I loved this. Simon Rattle conducted and drew me into the music throughout.
Here are some favorites from the past decade which did not make the previous list because no big name appeared in the performance.
I saw Rossini's Maometto II at the Santa Fe Opera in the new critical edition in 2012. It starred Luca Pisaroni and Leah Crocetto. Leah sang the role originally written for Isabella Colbran. I found this a magnificent opera and have been disappointed that I haven't seen it revived elsewhere.
That same year I saw Heggie's Moby-Dick at the San Francisco Opera. I declared it to be a masterpiece, but haven't seen much of it lately. Dead Man Walking seems to be everyone's favorite Heggie opera. Stephen Costello and Jay Hunter Morris were the stars.
For a triple threat year I also saw a touring company present in its original production Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass. It was an historic event, even if I don't remember much about it.
Opera Parallèle brought me Golijov's Ainadamar in 2013. This was already a favorite from recording. There is time travel in the story which was easily solved by posting the current year in the titles. The confusing story was well presented here. It's about a play by Federico Garcia Lorca, done as a trouser role. There was Flamenco dancing. What more could you ask for?
Bay Area wonders continued with West Edge Opera's presentation of Berg's Lulu in 2015. It starred Emma McNairy, so far my favorite Lulu ever. She played her for sex, an entirely not irrelevant part of the story. I see her name pop up in Europe now.
I visited Berlin in 2016 to see five Strauss Operas but ended up liking best Marschner's Der Vampyr at the Komische Oper. No one I'd heard of before or since was in it, but it was enormous fun.
2017 was a notable year primarily for two different and very interesting productions of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito by two of the more notorious regisseurs in opera: Claus Guth at Glyndebourne and Peter Sellars at Salzburg. Sellars focused on creating a racial context for the drama with racial casting while Guth moved the story from Rome to a river bank. Sellars featured Golda Schultz and Russell Thomas while Guth had Alice Coote. I dearly loved both of these performances and have come to regard this as Mozart's greatest opera.
Glyndebourne brought us in 2018 Barber's Vanessa. It was wonderfully mysterious and charming, and made me wonder why it never plays here.
2019 topped everything with the Metropolitan Opera's presentation of Glass's Akhnaten in an astounding production by Phelim McDermott. We didn't know an opera could be about juggling. Much of this success is due to the brilliant performance of Anthony Roth Costanzo.
Oh. I award the decade to Jonas Kaufmann. I liked him in more things than the performances with Anja Harteros.