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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Superconductor Untitled Awards

The Five Best Performances* at the Metropolitan Opera...this season.
(*that I saw and wrote about.)
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Our award trophy. Well, it's really a big, weird abstract sculpture
(Untitled, by Mary Callery) in the Metropolitan Opera House.
We are at mid-May and as I start getting ready to work on next season's Metropolitan Opera coverage, it's time to wrap up 2012-2013 at the big house. Here are the five best shows I attended in a very long opera season. I've done this before, but this year, the winners get to print out this article with a nice digital blow-up of the Untitled sculpture located over the proscenium in the Sybil Harrington Auditorium. (Shipping, handling and sculpture not included.)

Before you ask, I couldn't get a ticket for Dialogues of the Carmelites. I heard it was great.

Since this year's schedule was heavily loaded toward Wagner and Verdi, (with five operas by one and seven by the other) it's not surprising to see that three of this year's top five are in fact, Verdi operas. Other honorable mentions this season include Pretty Yende in Le Comte Ory, Lyudmila Montyrska in Aida and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in pretty much anything they played, but especially in Parsifal, Götterdämmerung and The Tempest.

And the winners are....


The Met's new François Girard Parsifal was the best show of the year.
Jonas Kaufmann and Katerina Dalayman in Act II. Photo by Ken Howard © 2013 The Metropolitan Opera.
Les Troyens (Dec. 26, 2012)
"Mr. Hymel showed a robust voice that was capable of powering over the thundering marches and brassy climaxes of Berlioz' "Gluck-on-steroids" orchestra. His big moment at the end of Act I (when Enée ironically orders the Trojan Horse to be put on wheels and brought into the city) rang out with clarion power, carrying a promise of the good things to come."

Il Trovatore (Jan. 18, 2013)
In the final act, it was Angela Meade who provided musical and dramatic focus. She sang a seemingly effortless "D'amor sull'ali rosee" with great power and beauty of tone, with two perfectly floated  pianissimo high Ds, mesmerizing the audience. This run of splendid singing continued through the famous Miserere (with Mr. Berti sounding resonant and plaintive from his offstage perch) and the heroine's final suicide."


Rigoletto (Jan. 27 2013)
Željko  Lučić's Rigoletto improves every time he sings it. Whether in the expressive passages of Para siamo or his three tender duets with Gilda, he remains the heart and soul of this production.  At work, he plays the jester as a nasty Don Rickles-type comic, taking repeated verbal slap shots at the Duke's collection of hockey pucks.

Parsifal (Feb. 18, 2013)
"This stark new production of Wagner's final opera is the great success of the 2012-2013 season, a well-reasoned, beautifully staged show that solves some of the major problems of Wagner's final opera in a unique way."

La Traviata (March 18, 2013)
(Note: I stood for this one. It was worth it.)
"If conducted properly, the last act of La Traviata should break your heart. Here, that intensity was supplied from Diana Damrau, supported by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin in the orchestra pit. All three stars of this show were at their best in this painful finale. As Ms. Damrau collapsed to the bare stage, she had come to the end of a memorable portrait of Verdi's most famous heroine. May there be many more."

Finally, I wouldn't be a mean, nasty, snaggly-toothed opera blogger if I didn't include the WORST performance I saw at the Met this season. Although contenders included a slapdash post-Sandy Nozze di Figaro and a March performance of Faust with an obviously ill Marina Poplavskaya losing her voice in the middle of Act V. But in both those cases there were extenuating circumstances that may have affected the performance.

So the (ahem) "winnner" is....

Don Carlo (Feb. 25, 2013)
"On Monday night, Mr. Maazel led a troubled performance. Sluggish tempos predominated, with none of the spring and snap needed to make this massive opera move forward...The problems grew worse in Act III, with the massive auto-da-fé that depicts both the coronation of King Philip and the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition. The big choral themes plodded at a turgid pace that was again, musically accurate but dramatically uninspired...Mr. Maazel became the first conductor in this writer's memory to be booed from the house...twice."

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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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.