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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Five from Twenty-Five

The best of the Metropolitan Opera season 2013-2014.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The class of 2013-14: Diana Damrau in La Sonnambula, Olga Peretyatko in I Puritani,
Ambrogio Maestri as Falstaff, Christine Goerke in Die Frau Ohne Schatten
and Joyce DiDonato in La Cenerentola.  All images © 2014 The Metropolitan Opera.
Curtain photo by Jonathan Tischler. Photoshop by the author.
With the 2013-2014 Metropolitan Opera season in the books it's time to go over the very best (and worst) of an uneven year at North America's largest opera house.

The 2013-14 season by the numbers:

For Superconductor to provide coverage of the Metropolitan Opera, a little more time and effort is needed. Where some opera companies and symphonies provide this publication with press tickets, the Met's current ticket policy excludes "blogs" from the privilege of complimentary press tickets.

I saw twenty-five performances at the Met this year (twenty-three of twenty-six productions with Die Frau Ohne Schatten and Norma twice each) and one outdoor broadcast. For twenty-one of these shows, I stood on the Rush Line.

The exceptions were Die Fledermaus, http://super-conductor.blogspot.com/2014/02/opera-review-opera-formerly-known-as.html and Werther which I saw from Family Circle Balance. (To be fair, I "gambled" and walked up for Wozzeck and I Puritani and still snagged tickets.)

I missed Andrea Chénier, Cosí fan tutti and The Enchanted Island, the first two due to scheduling conflicts and the last due to a week I spent ill.

The Top Five:
As Metropolitan Opera moves forward into labor negotiations with 15 unions (including the orchestra, the singers and the stage-hands) and an uncertain future for next year, here's the top five shows from the year that was. All titles link to the reviews. All quotes below are written by me.

Die Frau ohne Schatten with Christine Goerke and Johan Heuter
"The Metropolitan Opera finally revived Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten last night. Christine Goerke met the considerable challenges of singing and acting the role of the Dyer's Wife with a full dramatic soprano that rang out with powerful, golden tone in climactic moments."

Falstaff with Ambrogio Maestri and Angela Meade
Ambrogio Maestri reimagined the fat knight as a proud, bull-like figure, rampaging through post-war British society in a red Moss Bros. tailcoat with a cheerful disregard for its manners and mores. That wide belly and chest produce a solid, deep-cored basso which, at full flight generates a powerful, if not especially sweet tone.

La Sonnambula with Diana Damrau and Javier Camarena
"The first sleep-walk scene brought Act I to its climax, with a barefoot, nightgowned Ms. Damrau making a memorable entrance from the back of the Met's vast orchestra seating, tracked by a single spot as she warbled her way to the stage."

I Puritani with Olga Peretyatko and Lawrence Brownlee
"Ms. Peretyatko used a sweet, dulcet tone for the cavatina, navigating carefully with the conductor's help and then singing the cabaletta with more gusto and energy. She held the audience rapt with each dive and upward flutter of her voice, growing in confidence as the aria progressed and finally letting the upper register of her instrument out to soar into the topmost notes."

La Cenerentola with Javier Camarena and Joyce DiDonato
"Ms. DiDonato capped this display with a death-defying set of Mozartean intervals, demonstrating her agility while never losing the rich, mellifluous tone that is her calling-card...It could be argued that this spring at the Met has belonged to tenor Javier Camarena. The Mexican-born tenor is 38, but he sings with a youthful freshness and energy."

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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.