Monday, July 12, 2010

Best of 2010 (so far...)

Before we get completely soaked in all the wonderful Summer Opera Festivals, it's time to look back at what we've had in 2010, and to pick out the best of so many wonderful shows that I've been blessed to see this year.

Group A

It's not the end of the year so I won't make any top 10 list yet. Rather, I collect in Group-A the shows I think were the best, and in Group-B those that were excellent too, but remain in B only because A is too crowded ;)

Group A

(1) Macbeth [Warlikowski/Daniel] - La Monnaie in Brussels
(2) Parsifal [Bieito/Honeck] -Staatsoper Stuttgart
(3) The Fairy Queen [Kent/Christie] - Opéra Comique in Paris
(4) Fidelio [von Peter/Hoff] - Komische Oper Berlin
(5) Die Entführung aus dem Serail [Bieito/Hewett] - Komische Oper Berlin
(6) Rienzi [Stölzl/Lang-Lessing] - Deutsche Oper Berlin
(7) Der Fliegende Holländer [Kušej/Haenchen] - De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam
(8) La Traviata [Neuenfels/Rademacher] - Komische Oper Berlin
(9) Les Dialogues des Carmélites [Tcherniakov/Nagano] - Bayrische Staatsoper in Munich
(10) Pelléas et Mélisande [Braunschweig/Gardiner] - Opéra Comique in Paris

Group B
(1) Das Rheingold [Kramer/Jordan] - Opéra National de Paris
     Die Walküre [Kramer/Jordan] - Opéra National de Paris
(2) Otello [Kriegenburg/Summers] - Deutsche Oper Berlin
(3) Billy Budd [Zembello/Tate] - Opéra National de Paris
     Werther [Jacquot/Plasson] - Opéra National de Paris
(4) Les Contes de Hoffmann [Carsen/Lopez-Cobos] - Opéra National de Paris
(5) Massacre [Lagarde/Rundel] - Cité de la Musique in Paris
(6) L'Amour Coupable [Grögler /Deroyer] - Opéra  de Rouen
(7) Norma [Mussbach/Spinosi] - Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris
(8) Béatrice et Bénédict [Jemmett/Krivine] - Opéra Comique in Paris
(9) Falstaff [Martone/Gatti] - Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris
(10) In the penal colony [Brunel/Forget] - Athénée Théâtre in Paris

Of course not everything was good. I also saw some awful shows. As I wouldn't want to brush the whole production team as bad, I'll be a bit more specific about why these shows sucked...

Group Z
(1) Mignon [Benoit/Roth] - Opéra Comique in Paris
 I expected so much from this production believing this opera could be rehabilitated and restored to repertoire. It needed a clever staging to play along the sexual ambiguity of Mignon (for example). But it was a major bummer -- the shabbiest creation I've seen in the past decade [at that time I didn't see La Donna del lago! ha] Every bad aspect of this opera was emphasized -- worse, it was 'glorified', as if they still wanted to please the 19th century bourgeoisie. Horrid staging could not be rescued by a good cast and excellent orchestra. Result: instead of rehabilitating Mignon, this production is more likely to be the coup de grâce to this opera. Lesson: if you see the name of Jean-Louis Benoit close to the word "director", RUN...away!
(2) Lucia di Lammermoor [Sanjust/Ranzani] - Deutsche Oper Berlin
I don't know where to start. Yes, it is a shabby production of clumsily (de)composed scenes from Lucia, but it goes beyond that: the costumes and the make-up job make you stare at that mess in total disbelief --  "pinch me and tell me this is like a parody!" You wait for someone to show up and start laughing, but no -- it's all for real. I understand it was made eons ago, and should be appreciated/normalized accordingly, but to show that mess today to any audience and invite the top singers to perform in that no-drama kitsch-only production ... it's just too much.

(3) La donna del lago [Pasqual/Abbado] - Opéra National de Paris
I saw this mess twice: the final dress rehearsal and a regular show. My disappointment was immense, probably because I expected something decent: with a dream-team of singers and with this Rossini-serio I've only seen on DVD, I wanted this production to be a memorable success... Kitschy decors and a lack of direction killed most of my pleasure. Second time I had to keep my eyes closed not to stare at what must be one of the worst creations since 1950 or so. As if the whole point was to distribute money to the creation team for the minimum of (or no) work whatsoever. This pitiful production will go to La Scala and to Covent Garden. I hope they have some rescue plan in London and in Milan! This would top my list if I didn't LOVE the singers...

(4) Idomeneo [Bondy/Hui]  - Opéra National de Paris
This is not really a good production, even when Bondi's around to supervise when it's mounted -- like it was the case last year. This year  Bondy wasn't around, Netrebko & Villazon canceled their participation, a major spat between Emmanuele Haim and the Paris Opera Orchestra resulted in Hui  conducting a dry, uninspired and under-rehearsed/sloppy orchestra. With a sub-sub-par cast, this sad spectacle filled us with sorrow -- Mozart didn't deserve this. 

(5) Cosi Fan Tutte & Don Giovanni [Constant/Malgoire]  - Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris
2 shows made ~15 years ago --when they were a big success in provincial theaters-- were brought to Paris in 2010. Why?  It's shabby, tired, trivial, outdated, badly conducted and, in spite of occasionally good singing, both shows seemed to last forever... Paris is definitely not kind to Mozart this year.

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