We are in the final days (hours) of 2015 and it is good to take a look back to the best (and worst!) Opera Performances of 2015!
Definitely, Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the MET.
With a spectacular cast that included Anna Netrebko, Yonghoon Lee, the veteran Dolora Zacik, Stefan Kocan and with the big triumphant return (after months of battling a brain tumor) of famous Russian Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna, making one of the greatest moments of history of Opera. Veteran Mezzo Soprano Dolora Zacik returned as Azucena in Il Trovatore, 27 years after her Met debut in this role. Extraordinary Tenor Yonghoon Lee performed the role of Manrico with dignity and elegance making him one of the greatest Spinto Tenors of this time. Also, there is an old cliché about the only thing necessary to stage Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” is the “four greatest singers in the world.” I would add five singers..the bass role of Ferrando needs also a very, very good singer to do that role, even if is a supporting, character role. The Opening Aria of Il Trovatore, “Di due figli” is precisely sang by Ferrando, and we need an excellent singer to able to perform this difficult aria. And no one is better than the extraordinary Slovak Bass Stefan Kocan (Who also gave us a terrific performance as Sparafucile in Verdi’s Rigoletto) to perform the role of Ferrando in Il Trovatore.
Anna Netrebko’s Leonora is one of the greatest performances that I have ever seen at the MET. Her “Misere” is one of the most powerful and most expressive of the history of the many different performances of Il Trovatore. But the heart of all, the moment that all of us Opera lovers will never forget is the unforgettable performance of Dmitri Hvorostvosky as Count di Luna. From the first moment when Hvorostovsky made his first appearance on stage, he received a thunderous applause from the audience, a showstopping moment that literally forced conductor Marco Armiliato to put down his baton and join in the clapping. The famous Count Di Luna’s aria “Il Balen del suo sorriso” was one of the greatest performances ever by an Opera artist in the history of the MET and Dmitri Hvorostosky made history by making his Count di Luna as one of the greatest ever. At the end of the performance.. Dmitri Hvorostovsky received an standing ovation from the audience, throwing to Hvorostovsky a tremendous shower of white flowers, in loving support and love.
Other excellent Opera Performances that deserve to be in the BEST list are:
Otello (MET) mostly, because of the extraordinary performances of Serbian Baritone Zeljko Lucic and Soprano Sonay Yoncheva. Tannhauser’s revival at the MET with Johan Botha, Peter Mattei and Eva Marie Westbroek. Anna Bolena, with Sondra Radvanovsky , Ildar Abdrazakov (reprising his role as Enrico VIII) and Jamie Barton. Sondra Radvanovsky is the first singer in the Metropolitan Opera’s history to play three of Donizetti’s Tudor Queens, in which first, she made an extraordinary performance in the demanding role of Anna Bolena and later as Maria Stuarda and much later, we will see her in 2016, as Queen Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux. Rigoletto, the revival of Michael Meyer’s excellent production of “Las Vegas” Rigoletto returned to the MET with the extraordinary performances of Zeljko Lucic in the title role Piotr Beczala as the Duke and Stefan Kocan as Sparafucile. Tosca, Luc Bondy’s production also was one of the best of this year with the return of Angela Gheorghiu to the MET in the title role and extraordinary Baritone Zeljko Lucic as the villain Scarpia. Other extraordinary Opera performances: The double bill of “Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle” at the MET, “La Donna del Lago” at the MET, with Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez, Andrea Chenier at the ROH, with Kaufmann, Westbroek and the marvelous Zeljko Lucic, “Der Fliegende Hollander” at the ROH with Bryn Terfel in the title role, Die Entführung aus dem Serail marvelous production at Glyndebourne and the double-bill of Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci at the MET with Marcelo Alvarez in both demaning roles.
NOW……THE WORST of 2015
Definitely Salzburg’s production of “Fidelio” is the WORST Opera production of the year. (and I have the feeling that for many other years) Even Beethoven himself would have hated this production who had seudo-Freudian ridiculous moments. This “production” of Beethoven’s Fidelio was a true betrayal to Beethoven’s message of optimism and freedom… turning into a nightmare with allusions of The Matrix Movies and 2001 Space Odyssey. Even at the end, Florestan, ends up death, turning Leonora’s fight for his freedom useless and for nothing murdering Beethoven’s ideals of what he had in his “Fidelio”.
I wish you all a wonderful year 2016 with many beautiful and extraordinary Operas… many new productions are waiting for us in 2016… Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles (First time in 100 years at the MET!) The MET’s premiere of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereaux and a New Production of Strauss Elektra are three treasures that are waiting for us to watch and listen next year in 2016.