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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Opera-pocalypse! The Best of 2012

The Twelve Best Operas Performances of 2012.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
No this didn't actually happen this year. (The Mayans were wrong!)
 Framegrab from Armageddon © 1998 The Walt Disney Company/Touchstone Entertainment.
I saw a total of sixty-five operas in 2012 (sixty-six if I snag a ticket for Maria Stuarda on Monday night.) Here's the twelve best opera performances (overall) for the year that was supposed to end with us being hit by a flaming pyramid two weeks ago.

Anyway here's the best operas I saw this year. Rough chronological order.

Ernani at the Metropolitan Opera.
"Angela Meade brought her admirable instrument to the part, meeting the challenging high-and-low notes of the opening "Ernani, inviolame" and  the fiery duets and trios that form the backbone of this score."

The Ghosts of Versailles at Manhattan School of Music
"One of the joys of Mr. Corigliano's opera is seeing Beaumarchais bring his beloved characters back to life for one more romp. Figaro is older in this opera-within-an-opera, played here with energy and a rich low end by American baritone Nickoli Strommer. "

Notre Dame with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
"Stephen Powell walked a fine line between piety and desparation, using his potent baritone in the prison scene to convincingly portray the deacon's capricious, ambivalent attitude toward Esmerelda."

Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
"Nina Stemme didn't just sing--she embodied the title role, meeting the opera's exacting requirements with a huge instrument that proved capable of soaring heights and spine-tingling lows. This was the heroic soprano voice that New Yorkers have been starving for: real singing, thrillingly delivered with no compression or spreading above or below the stave."

This did.
Helga Davis (left) and Kate Moran perform Knee Play No. 2 from Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach 
at the BAM NextWave Festival. Photo by Stephanie Berger © 2012 Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The Turn of the Screw with Opera Moderne (at Symphony Space.)
"The two children are possessed from the start and that the ghosts' real target is the Governess as some sort of living vessel for the spirit of Miss Jessel. Soprano Anna Noggle gave a performance that teetered from prim and proper and finally collapsed into total insanity."

Dialogues of the Carmelites at Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
"Dialogues des Carmélites may seem like an insanely ambitious project for a small New York opera company. On Friday night, Christopher Fecteau's Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble did not just meet the challenges of this work, they surpassed them."

Ciro in Babilonia at Caramoor.
"Not even the most loyal opera fan-boys could keep tenor Michael Spyres from stealing the evening. As Baldisare (Belshazzar) Mr. Spyres displayed an astonishing command over his instrument, rising to dizzy heights of hysteria in the banquet scene."

Einstein on the Beach at BAM.
"When the chorus, peeking out of the orchestra pit started chanting 'one, two, three, four…' the listener’s initiation into the complex rituals of Einstein had begun."
(My review was originally published on The Classical Review).

Anna Bolena at the Washington National Opera.
"Sondra Radvanovsky has the pipes to sing the demanding title role, gliding easily through the role's tessitura and finding a glittering edge to her voice that allowed her to surmount everyone else on stage in the Act I finale when Anna discovers she has lost her seat on the throne."

Così fan tutte at The Juilliard School
"Faced with the challenge of the opera seria parody "Come scoglio" (written with extreme intervals of high and low notes for a singer Mozart apparently detested) Emalie Savoy delivered a searing performance."

Wozzeck with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
"Mr. Salonen conducted a burly reading of the score that highlighted the chamber-like details and witty parodies that lie buried in this brilliant work. Compressing the three acts into a tight 95 minutes, he drove the performance with deadly precision, allowing the luminous moments in the score their own chances to shine."

Les Troyens at the Met (second cast.)
"Bryan Hymel fully unpacked his instrument, delivering long, ringing high notes that sustained themselves in the slow opening section. He also had the power for Berlioz' massive cabaletta, hitting the big notes dead-on and letting the sound expand outward over the orchestra on a firm column of tone."

Honorable mentions: Don Giovanni at Juilliard and the Washington National Opera. Il sogno di Scipione at the Gotham Chamber Opera. Così fan tutte at New York City Opera. Der Kaiser von Atlantis with Opera Moderne. Le Rossignol and L'enfant et les sortilèges at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Elektra with the Philadelphia Orchestra,  La Clemenza di TitoNixon in China and L'Elisir d'Amore (the March performances) at the Met, and Henri VIII at the Bard Festival.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.