My Opera Review of 2016

My Opera Year in review 2016: And this is my final post of the year. (WARNING… MY POST IS EXTREMELY LONG, probably more longer than Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg!   )
What makes Opera so special to all of us? Opera, is of course, the art of all arts and makes our souls a new, different meaning of what life is… it makes us have goosebumps and makes us cry or laugh, it touches our souls… many operas gives us lessons of life and philosophy about the drama, errors and tragedies of Humanity… and this year, 2016, again many Operas touched our hearts and made our lives different. 2016 was a magnificent year in Opera, so many wonderful, rich, beautiful voices, so many composers, so many arias, duets, overtures, so many conductors…. I am sharing here my quick and (fast?) review of this beautiful year in Opera and hoping that 2017 will be as extraordinary as it was in 2016. More than reviews, actually I am writing like a “review” or memories of the biggest highlights in Opera, not only from the Met in HD and the Sirius broadcasts, but also of international Opera of 2016. From the Pearl Fishers and Roberto Devereux…. and L’Amour de Loin… to Jake Heggie’s “Moby Dick” with Jay Hunter Morris and Enescu’s “Oedipe” at the ROH. From Nina Stemme’s performances in “Turandot”, “Elektra” and “Tristan und Isolde” to the unforgettable last minutes of Otello with Francesco Anile remplacing Antonenko in the title role.
The unforgettable performance of Strauss’ “Elektra”, with the excellent production of the late Patrice Chereau and with Nina Stemme, Waltraud Meier and Eric Owens was one of the greatest opera performances that I have ever seen and it is now, along with my favorite Elektra with Birgit Nilsson as one of my favorites.
100 years without the Pearl Fishers at the MET; 81 years without Guillaume Tell at the MET and the first “Roberto Devereux” ever at the MET… untiil 2016.
in 2016 we had three historical events at the MET, “The Pearl Fishers” at the MET, after 100 years of absence… we had the historical event of listening and watching “The Pearl Fishers” which is now called as the “second famous Opera of Bizet after Carmen” with Diana Damrau, Nicolas Teste and Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien (in 2016 we had the joy of watching and listening to Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien together three times, first in the already mentioned “The Pearls Fishers”, later in Donizetti’s masterpiece “Roberto Devereux” and finally in Donizetti’s “La Favorite” from Munich) and it became a huge sensation since the first performance in New year’s eve of 2015. We will never forget the beautiful “Au fond du temple saint” duet with the beautiful, glorious voices of Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien! And also Matthew Polenzani’s extremely beautiful and moving “Je crois entendre encore” which made me had tears in my eyes. Roberto Devereux, which was performed for the first time ever at the Met became one of my personal favorite broadcasts (both in HD and on Sirius) of the year, the four leading leads were outstanding and it became one of the most moving performances that I have seen. The beautiful and unforgettable and very dramatic cabaletta in “Roberto Devereux” game me so many goosebumps! The opening night performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Met was definitely one of the greatest highlights of the new 2016-2017 season!
There are no words to describe the intense beauty of the entire performance!
Nina Stemme, Stuart Skelton, René Pape, Ekaterina Gubanova and Evgeny Nikitin were absolutely terrific!!!
Nina Stemme was absolutely incredible as Isolde and her Liebestod was one of the most heartbreaking and most beautifully ever. Along with Birgit Nilsson and Kisten Flagstad, Nina Stemme’s Isolde will be remembered for Wagnerian and Opera lovers in future decades! And Nina Stemme had her 100th performance as Isolde! Stuart Skelton did a terrific job as Tristan, excellent and with dignity, Stuart Skelton gave us an unforgettable Tristan and we were very lucky to have him as Tristan for these year’s performances!
Once again, René Pape was terrific as King Marke! I consider King Marke’s monologue as one of the most beautiful and most moving moments of “Tristan und Isolde” and René performed this moment perfectly!
The beautiful and lovely Ekaterina Gubanova was absolutely marvelous as Brangäne and Evgeny Nikitin was absolutely wonderful as Kurwenal! A special mention for English Horn Pedro Diaz, who made a beautiful performance with the English Horn solo, during the act III and the beautiful conducting by Sir Simon Rattle! Finally, Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell”, which has never been performed at the MET in 81 years (actually never, in the original French language!) became one of my all time favorite and most unforgettable radio broadcasts of the year (and wishing for a HD for next year), oh my How I much enjoyed listening to every broadcast of Guillaume Tell, from the glorious and famouse overture… Gerald Finley’s extremely moving “Sois immobile” from Act III and the brilliant Act IV cabaletta with Arnold… Guillaume Tell was one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had…. I have no words to describe to the beauty of Guillaume Tell’s performance!
It was 5 glorious hours of music, drama and pure beauty!
Another unforgettable Rossini at the Met was “L’Italiana in Algeri”, I absolutely loved Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri” very much! Marianna Pizzolato, René Barbera, Nicola Alaimo and specially Ildar Abdrazakov as Mustafa, were terrific! The music and singing were pure joy to listen!
And an honorary mention to the marvelous conducting of dear Maestro James Levine, who is a treasure of the Metropolitan Opera.
The singing and performances, the music… all was so glorious!
The recent Met’s performances of Janáček’s Jenůfa with the wonderful Oksana Dyka as the title role of Jenufa and the big return of the fabulous Karita Mattila, as Kostelnička was another unforgettable operatic experience for me!
Other important highlights in international Opera…
Piotr Beczala’s and Anna Netrebko’s first Lohengrin. One of the greatest events of 2016 was the debut of extraordinary Piotr Beczala in the title role of Lohengrin and Anna Netrebko in her first Elsa ever in Wagner’s masterpiece Lohengrin. What an extraordinary and unforgettable and historical event!
Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco and Don Quichotte: What a huge privilege is for me to listen to one of my all time personal favorites, the great Italian Bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, as Jacop Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra and later as Don Quichotte with the radio Broadcast of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. I listened to his always marvelous Fiesco first, at the MET’s performances of Simon Boccanegra with Placido Domingo in the title role, later in the broadcast with Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role and again on Sirius, in an early performance with Thomas Hampson in the title role. And of course, later in November, Ferruccio Furlanetto gave us a very beautiful performance as Don Quichotte, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Don Carlo at the San Francisco Opera House… another beautiful Operatic experience was listening to one of my all time favorite Operas… Verdi’s masterpiece Don Carlo at the San Francisco Opera (with our friend James Crow as one of the Soldiers!) and with a terrific cast…. Michael Fabiano, Ana Maria Martinez, René Pape and Mariusz Kwiecien.
Enescu’s “Oepedie” at the ROH, with Johan Reuter, Sarah Connelly, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, John Tomlinson and Stefan Kocan is one of the greatest highlights of 2016. What a performance! Enescu who was one of the greatest geniuses of the ealy XX century (and compared to Mozart) gave us his only Opera and great Masterpiece “Oedipe” in which the entire Opera tells the story of Oedipe, from his birth, to his death and the last two acts (act Three and Act Four) are based on Sophocle’s Tragedies “Oedipus the King” and “Oedipus at Colonus”, listening to “Oedipe” on BBC 3 was one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had. Johan Reuter gaves us one of the most extraordinary performances of this year in the title role! I will never, ever forget this extraordinary radio broadcast of “Oedipe” in which I listened over and over again in the 29 days of BBC3. (Thank you BBC 3 ! )
Three wonderful and different productions of one of my all time favorite operas, “Un Ballo in Maschera”, one with the fabulous Piotr Beczala, another, a wonderful Science Fiction version from La monnaie with the extraordinary Stefano Secco (Thank you cara Laura for the excellent recommendation! ) and also a marvelous version with Ramon Vargas.
Another Opera that I loved very much was a very different and very interesting version of one of my all time favorite operas, Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” at the Opera Platform in which in this interesting version, Tchaikovsky himself plays an important role as a “character” in the entire opera… (mostly as Prince Yeletsky) (Thank you again, cara Laura for the excellent recommendation!)
Jake Heggie’s “Moby Dick” was my new Opera discovery in 2016 and I’ll be ever thankful with dear Kathleen for recommending us this modern masterpiece. Jay Hunter Morris, as Captain Ahab was the greatest performance ever I have seen in years… what a performance, Jay Hunter Morris became Captain Ahab.. and Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Morgan Smith as Starbuck, Talise Trevigne as Pip and Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg were absolutely terrific! And the amazing production from the San Francisco Opera was one of the greatest ever. Visually and musically, “Moby Dick” became an Operatic experience that I will never, ever forget.
Tosca with Jonas Kaufmann, Angela G, and Bryn Terfel was also one of the greatest highlights of the year, specially with the unforgettable encore of Jonas Kaufmann of “E Lucevan le Stelle” and……. also Angela’s unforgettable missing moments :p
The new and controversial production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the ROH was one of the greatest productions that I have ever seen and I absolutely loved Diana Damrau in the title role. The double-set was absolute fascinating and very interesting and I absolutely loved it!
And Nabucco at the Lyric Opera of Chicago was one of the most beautiful and extraordinary performances that I have ever listened. Zeljko Lucic’s Nabucco was so wonderful and it was a huge joy for me to start the year listening to his gorgeous, beautiful voice and Tatiana Serjan’s Abigaille was a true jewel of the performance. The Glorious Chorus of the Lyric Opera of Chicago was so glorious. Nabucco, from the Lyric Opera of Chicago was one of the greatest highlights of this year!
And…. to end the international operatic events of the year… the unforgettable “Mexican Three Tenors concert” in Mexico City with Francisco Araiza, Ramon Vargas and Javier Camarena, the three most beloved Tenor voices of Mexico, singing together in an event that caused sensation not only in Mexico but also internationally.

The stars of the year:

Matthew Polenzani and Marius Kwiecien in The Pearl Fishers, Roberto Devereux and La Favorite (Matthew Polenzani will shine again next year with Idomeneo) and Mariusz also shined as Rodrigo in Don Carlo.
Nina Stemme in Turandot, Elektra and Tristan und Isolde. 2016 was the year of Nina Stemme! Her Turandot was very good but she specially shined as Elektra (who probably gave us the most magnificent singing/performance ever of this year) and later as Isolde, in which her Isolde was one of the most beautiful ever and made it in my lost of unforgettable Isoldes, along with Birgit Nilsson.
Ferruccio Furlanetto, who was terrific as Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra and Don Quichotte.
Diana Damrau who was terrific in “The Pearl Fishers”, “Lucia di Lammermoor” and that we will finish the end of this year with her performance as Juliette in Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette”.
Dmiri Hvorostovsky who was magnificent as Eugene Onegin at the ROH and also as Simon Boccanegra along with Ferruccio Furlanetto!
Sondra Radvanovsky, our Tudor Queen of 2016! Our Majesty, Sondra Radvanovsky gave us three unforgettable performances as the three leading Tudor Queens from Donizetti’s “Tudor Queen trilogy”, first as Anna Bolena, later as Maria Stuarda and finally and the jewel of the crown, her Elisabeth I in my favorite of Donizetti’s trilogy… “Roberto Devereux”. And the name of Sondra is now, along with the name of Beverly Sills who will be remembered for performing these three, difficult and different three Tudor Queens.
Piotr Beczala with his beautiful Faust, his fabulous King Gustavo/Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera, his first Lohengrin and his magnificent performances as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and recently as Rodolfo in La Boheme.
Ryan Speedo Green who gave us one of the most beautiful performances as Colline in la Boheme and his life story is also beautiful!
Zeljko Lucic, his beautiful Nabucco at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, his wonderful Count di Luna in “Il Trovatore” at the ROH, his Iago at the Spring’s performances of “Otello” at the Met (with the beautiful surprise of Frances Anile ) and now as Jochanaan in Strauss Salome.
Eric Owens who shined in Eletra and L’amour de Loin.
Tenor Francesco Anile who replaced Aleksandr Antonenko in Otello.
Mexican Tenor Javier Camarena who shined again now in “Don Pasquale”. (And yes, he did it again! Javier Camarena gave another encore!)
Stefan Kocan and Johan Reuter who were absolutely wonderful in “Oedipe”
Rene Pape, as King Marke in Tristan und Isolde and also as King Phillip in Don Carlo.
Anna Netrebko in her first Elsa in Lohengrin and also her first Manon Lescaut.
Roberto Alagna who made his first des Grieux ever also in Manon Lescaut.
Elina Garanca who shined in “Roberto Devereux” and “La Favorite”.
Kristine Opolais who shined both as Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly.
Extraordinary Tenor Gregory Kunde in which he gave many brilliant performances in different operas in this year.
Ildar Abdrazakov who also gave us many beautiful performances, from Mephistopheles in Faust, to his unfortgettable Mustafa in L’Italiana in Algeri and also as Don Giovanni.
Gerald Finley , Bryan Hymel and John Relyea in Guillaume Tell.
The surprises: Tenor Francesco Anile replacing Antonenko as Otello in the Spring performances of Otello at the Met.
More highlights… the recent encore of the glorious “Va, Pensiero” chorus in the recent performances of “Nabucco” at the Met.
Also the farewell to our dear Maestro James Levine and the welcoming of Yannick Nezet-Seguin as new music Director.
We celebrated the 80th Birthday of Sherill Milnes and the 70 Birthday of Jose Carreras)
And our farewell to our beloved Opera artists that passed away this year…. Daniela Dessi, Johan Botha and John Del carlo and more that I am forgetting in this moment…
And also a special farewell to Peter Allen (Met opera host) and our friend Robert W White from Sirius group.
May 2017 be another wonderful year of many more wonderful Operas! I wish you all a wonderful new 2017 year with beautiful music and more extraordinary new Opera productions and performances!
And also…. many good get well wishes and a good recovery for our dear and beloved Dmitri Hvorostovsky


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