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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 In Review: The Five Best Opera Performances

Severed heads and demonic visitors made for an entertaining year.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Depravity: Salome (Camilla Nylund) with the head of Jokanaan (Alan Held)

at the climax of Salome at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
Photo by  Dominic M. Mercier © 2014 Opera Philadelphia/The Philadelphia Orchestra

Opera may be the trickiest of all art forms but it nonetheless remains the beating and sometimes bleeding heart of this blog. And this year, there haven't been quite as many opera reviews...but there have been some most impressive performances. Here's a look at 2014 in opera with the five best things I saw appearing below in chronological order.

Opera Philadelphia w/ The Philadelphia Orchestra: Salome 
"When she finally demanded Jokanaan's head, Ms. Nylund opened the full power of her instrument, rising up with powerful (not piercing) high notes and diving down into that elusive (but necessary) lower range with the aid of a strong core. Her three-stanza address to the bloody head rode over the huge orchestra at the climax of a riveting and star-making performance."
"As Liese, (the ex-Nazi) Michelle Breedt's genteel exterior hid a past of wartime brutality. This is one of the great villain performances in recent years, displaying a formidable vocal range and the power and flexibility of a Strauss heroine. "

Itsanga Ensemble: The Magic Flute
"The results are remarkable, sounding like Mozart filtered through the percussion pieces of Carl Orff with lashings of township jive, American jazz and gospel. The three stentorian chords (a motif throughout the opera) and rapid-fire ostinato of the Overture proved to be perfectly suited for these instruments."

Juilliard Opera: Il Turco in Italia
"In a bravura, occasionally breathless performance, Ms. Park gradually revealed the fine steel-sinewed instrument supporting this soubrette character. She summoned bright fioratura runs in the fast arias and created real human emotion in the great Act II lament here Fiorilla reacts to her husband's announcement that he will seek an immediate divorce."

"For its first half, the opera is a two-hander, an epic confrontation on Christmas Eve between the title character (bass Tyler Putnam) and Josiah Creach (Brent Reilly Turner) a miserly, Scrooge-like shopkeeper with echoes of Wagner's Mime."

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