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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, December 31, 2018

The Feast of Seven: The Best Opera Performances of 2018

Seven great opera performances from a strange and turbulent year.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The year that was: 2018 in opera.
What a year. James Levine was fired from The Metropolitan Opera, which also crowned a new music director. I listened to seven recordings of Carmen. And Placido Domingo tried his hand at....comedy? On to the highlights.

Fellow Travelers
The PROTOTYPE Festival, John Jay College, January
"Mr. Spears' music propels the drama relentlessly forward, swaddling the words in thick blankets of sound as comfortable and quilted as the duvet on Laughlin's bed. This is modern opera, so arias and ensembles are eschewed for a Glass-meets-Wagner style of terse dialogue, but Mr. Spears also makes sure his actors have some beautiful music to sin."

The Metropolitan Opera, NY, February
"Klaus Florian Vogt favored a high, sweet and ultimately musical approach that is miles away from the often-heard "Bayreuth bark." It was disconcerting at first to hear lines that are usually shouted in exhaustion at the end of an act sung--and sung with great beauty and purity of tone."

Carnegie Hall, NY, March
"The figure that is of the greatest interest in this opera is not the callow Rinaldo but the sorceress Armida, played by Jane Archibald.  Her spectacular entrances (the libretto mentions "a flaming chariot drawn by dragons") are met with thrilling orchestral passages. Ms. Archibald clearly relished her role, playing one of the first great villainesses of baroque opera."

Tristan und Isolde
Severance Hall, Cleveland OH, April
"Nina Stemme's Isolde was a slow-burning fuse that exploded into fusilades of sound over the vast, rolling wave of the orchestra. She brought a laser focus to her outbursts of rage against Tristan, the man who killed her lover and was now bringing her to Cornwall for an unwanted marriage with his uncle King Marke. She  raged, stormed and blustered, answered with raging breakers of sound rolled forth by Mr. Welser-Möst."

Der Freischütz
The Bronx Opera, Lehman College, May
"Mr. Celentano was admirable as this unlikeable fellow, but showed genuine character development over the course of the three acts. As Kaspar, Mr. Nansel had the better evening, making the black-hearted huntsman a two-faced fellow, jolly in appearane but devoted to his dark master Samiel. His short vengeance aria at the end of Act I brought the character's malicious nature to the forefront, and his scene in the Wolf's Glen was genuinely terrifying."

The Mile-Long Opera
The High Line, October
"This was sung, whispered, shouted and spoken by one thousand performers, arranged into twenty-six distinct sections. Each text was about some aspect of the time of 7pm, and each group of singers varied widely in how they presented themselves. One had the impression of moving through different "tribes" of these artists, as singers wearing visor caps with LED-lit underbills yielded to groups holding Amazon Fire tablets, wearing glowing backpacks, or holding little hand-held LED lights like sacred objects."

Il Trittico
The Metropolitan Opera, November
After eleven years away, the Met's handsome production is finally back on the boards, and Monday night's performances of Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (in that order, as Puccini intended) shows that this masterpiece is best when done as the composer intended: together. But this welcome revival is not the story here: the story is that the title role in the last of these operas is performed by the indefatigable superstar Placido Domingo in a rare excursion into comic opera."

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