Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Favorite Operas of the Year 2020

For another perspective on 2020 see the KK Awards.

This list is limited only to performances that I viewed in 2020.  This was another year without travel but with a lot of free streams from the Met and the Vienna State Opera due to the global pandemic.  These are my top ten for this year and are in chronological order.  I find this to be a lovely mix of a wide variety of operatic styles.

Favorite Performances

  • Gershwin's Porgy and Bess  This came early in the year when we were still receiving live streams in HD in movie theaters from the Metropolitan Opera.  The stars were Eric Owens and Angel Blue.  I love this opera and found this cast perfect.

  • Bartok's Judith   This came to me as a live stream from Munich before the theaters closed and is entirely an invention of  Katie Mitchell. Bluebeard's Castle becomes a crime story.  This mashup of Concerto for Orchestra in five movements and Duke Bluebeard's Castle, both by Bartok, was new for everyone.  I don't quite know if I should say it's a new opera.  The concerto is staged as a film showing Nina Stemme preparing to go under cover to capture Bluebeard.  You'd have to make your own film.

  • Handel's Agrippina  This, too, is before the closing of the theaters and was live from the Met.  Joyce Didonato is Agrippina and Kate Lindsey as Nero are spectacular.  I didn't know that Handel wrote any comedies, but this is very funny.

  • Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane [Heliane's miracle] is from Deutsche Oper Berlin and was performed in 2018.  It was new for me, and I am apparently not the only one.  Korngold died young, and only his Die Tote Stadt has remained in the repertoire.  He is a neo-romanticist who writes great singing roles.  People are wondering why they have never seen this.

 

  • Beethoven's Fidelio   My selections jump to July long after the theater closing.  This performance is from ROH in London and occurred this year.  Lise blends in with the guys more than any other Leonore I've seen.  This is for the singing.  The staging of the last act is a bit odd.

  • Britten's Gloriana   This performance came to me from Madrid and played in 2018.  I had never seen this opera before and liked it very much.  This was composed for the coronation of Elizabeth II and has something of a bad reputation in England.  The story is slanted more politically than romantically.

  • Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos  This performance occurred in Vienna in 2017 and stars Lise Davidsen as Ariadne and Erin Morley as Zerbinetta.  This is for the singing.

  • Puccini's Tosca  There were four Toscas for me this year, but I liked best this one from Vienna in 2019 starring Sondra Radvanovsky and Piotr Beczala.  Two of the other Toscas also came from Vienna.  I am feeling insecure about this choice since the other three were also very good.


  • Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas    It comes from my alma mater Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and played in 2016.  The set is a boat that rotates on the stage.  I saw a film of this last year, but this one is better.  If you have not seen this opera, try this one.  This was the first time I have viewed the IU website, and I should try it again.

  • Puccini's La Boheme  This was a live performance from Munich played to an empty house.  The waiter wore a mask, and there were no crowds.  I loved it best of all because the singers showed us their real selves and projected a sense of intimacy.  Jonas Kaufmann was his wonderful self.

 

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