Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nights at the Opera: 2014

However belatedly, I decided to round up a personal "best of" list for the last calendar year. It's always an enjoyable experience of revisiting... particularly poignant for me as I looked back on the last of my German opera-going (for now.) Due to my own relative restraint (not to say remissness) in attending, I've limited myself to a top three in my usual categories.

Standout performances:

Tanja Ariane Baumgartner. Selecting one of her performances was difficult, as she was one of the most reliably exciting singers in my Frankfurt season. But her Charlotte, in Werther, was not only richly sung, but intensely intelligent and intensely sensual; showing Charlotte as a lively, trammeled spirit, rather than a domestic saint, was much appreciated by me!

Anja Silja. She's still got it. She may have invented it. In Aribert Reimann's Gespenstersonate, she made parrot noises and commented on the human condition, and I was thrilled and terrified.

Anja Harteros, in Forza del Destino.

Yep. It should go without saying that in a Bayerische Staatsoper effort with visually striking production and high-carat cast, there was plenty to admire. But even with Ludovic Tézier and Jonas Kaufmann filling other principal roles, Harteros stood out.

Great nights:

Richard Strauss' Daphne is famous for its meltingly beautiful score, but I had never imagined it as compelling drama. Fortunately, Claus Guth did, and his vision was gorgeously realized by the forces of the Frankfurt opera.

Rossini? Rossini! The Bayerische Staatsoper (in aeternum floreat) put on a striking, stirring Guillaume Tell as part of last summer's festival, with singing superb and compelling.

Tristan und Isolde. This was IT: the night of the year that I'd have over and over if I could. It remains a visceral as well as an aural and visual memory, an evening of almost unbearable, absolutely unmissable intensity.

Special mentions:

Opera and public conversations: in Death of Klinghoffer, the Met, its performers, and its audience all came together to make and engage with challenging art, and it was a beautiful thing.

Orchestrally-induced euphoria: Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Production here, production there; singers in sometimes-cartoonish blocking... Gesamtkunstwerk this was, alas, not, but the orchestra was nothing short of sublime.

2015 postscript: I went to The Merry Widow with Micaela, who blogged about it better than I could. I stand by my Sound of Music comment. "Excuse me, sir, I don't know your signal" is a better come-on (however inadvertent) than anything in Jeremy Sams' version of the libretto. And Captain von Trapp could give anyone lessons in suave uniform-clad flirting. Anyone. And on that note, Gentle Readers, I wish you a year full of good opera. Next up for me: the erotic misadventures of Hoffmann.


  1. Maybe I should know this, but who was the T&I?

    1. Lance Ryan and Jennifer Wilson, with great singing and hair-raising chemistry (the title should link to the full post.)

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