Friday, January 14, 2011

Best of 2010 (2): Productions

Many fantastic new productions have been unveiled to us in 2010. To choose just a few and say 'these were the best three or four' is extremely hard. Instead I tried to isolate 5 and make a more extensive list of what I believe are memorable new productions (list is appended below.)  

On the horizon of the most exciting theaters in Europe, to me Komische Oper in Berlin remains the brightest spot as far as opera is concerned. I suspect there might be some other smaller theaters doing as good as Komische (or better?), but I don't see many theaters having that combination of audacity and desire to evolve artistically and create something new, while keeping the high musical standards. You will find other places looking richer,  maybe more prestigious, with impressive historical background, with more stars, ...  but if you are interested in seeing known operas produced differently, Komische is the place to start. Theater Basel is right there too, together with La Monnaie in Brussel, and Staatsoper in Stuttgart.

Big thanks to artistic directors of these inspiring theaters [Andreas Homoki, Dietmar Schwarz, Jossi Weiler, and Peter de Caluwe, respectively] and to all the folks who actually make these theaters live and be the way they are. 

Regarding the new opera productions in Paris, I think Opéra Comique produced a few good shows in 2010, and I did quite like the first two chapters of The Ring at Opéra Bastille but we cannot say 2010 was good. Several revivals were very well mounted, but globally we can only hope 2011 will be better. 


1. Macbeth [Warlikowski/Daniel] in Brussels

Production in which everything was united: intellectually stimulating show, amazingly structured stage action, superbly engaging singing/acting, fantastic chorus, and unearthly conducted orchestra... all elements converged to one of the most exhilarating operatic [and even theatrical!] experiences ever. 
[On YT appeared a video-clip of the beginning of Act-1, implying that a full video-recording exists... which only further exacerbates our frustration (would love to have a hand on that video.)]

1-tie. Parsifal [Bieito/Honeck] in Stuttgart

The production is basically a spin-off from Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, but it is made to fit in the most fascinating way the story of Parsifal. Orchestra, chorus, singers - everything clicked right. It was intense, positively disturbing, but deep down it contained a 'true' description of subtle correlation between human spirituality, ideology, and broader social behavior. Rather than metaphysics oriented, this is a cognitive sciences motivated production.

3. Aida [Bieito/Feltz] in Basle

Here is your Bieito-magic at its best. This disturbing show actually depicts the social truth of any modern Western country/nation -- truth that we normally do not want to see. Bieito puts the finger where it hurts: immigration, identity crisis of modern nations, profit-only driven nationalism. It is rough and powerful, but perfectly superposed onto the story you can read in libretto; directed masterfully and performed brilliantly.

3-tie. Rusalka at Semperoper  [Herheim/Netopil]  in Dresden

I absolutely love Herheim's deconstructive approach: Nothing is what it seems to be! You read the synopsis, read the program-booklet, and you can be sure that something completely different will happen on stage. His striking musicality in directing a sparkly & clever stage-action, in addition to sensational cast and impeccably conducted Staatskapelle Dresden made this experience one of the most memorable opera nights in 2010.

5. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [Homoki/Lange] in Berlin (KomOp)

Here is a classical lesson of theater to all the aspiring young directors around [and to opera directors in particular.] By this show it seems as if Homoki wanted to make a statement that Regie is not about controversies or shocking the audience. It is above all about emphasizing theatrical dimension in an opera, and bring it upfront. A rich dynamics among actors is what makes this show so brilliant, opening a way to feel the music in a qualitatively different way. With a surprisingly brilliant cast, huge chorus, and especially fantastic conductor, you have the best Meistersinger show around.

6. Fidelio [von Peter/Hoff]  in Berlin (KomOp)
   The Queen of Spades [Hermann/Feltz] in Basle
   The Rake's Progress [Warlikowski/Metzmacher] in Berlin (UdL)

7. The Fairy Queen [Kent/Christie] in Paris (OpCom)
   Dialogues des Carmélites [Tcherniakov/Nagano] in Munich
   Fidelio [Bieito/Gatti] in Munich

9. Der Fliegende Holländer [Kusej/Hanchen] in Amsterdam
   Pelléas et Mélisande [Braunschweig/Gardiner] in Paris (OpCom)
   Rusalka [Kusej/Hanus] in Munich

10. The Passenger [Pountney/Currentzis] in Bregenz
     Rienzi [Stölzl/Lang-Lessing] in Berlin (DOB) 
    Die Schweigsame Frau [Kosky/Nagano] in Munich

Honorable mention to Roméo et Juliette [Py/Minkowski] in Amsterdam, and to two chapters of The Paris Ring [Krämer/Jordan].

Although I refer here only to the shows I've seen in theaters, I cannot not to mention the groundbreaking production of Don Giovanni [Tcherniakov/Langré] in Aix en Provence that I could only see on TV. 

As for the NEW OPERAS, I believe two of them are truly praise-worthy:
(1) A superb new opera by Thierry Pécou Amour Coupable  was premiered in Rouen last April. Here is hoping this gem will soon be mounted on some bigger stage.
(2) New Wolfgang Rihm's opera Dionysos was probably the best thing happened at the Salzburger Festspiele 2010 [the same show will be presented in Amsterdam in June 2011].


  1. I havent seen as many shows as you, but my personal top performance is the same: Parsifal in Stuttgart. There's one show missing tough which was - though completely different - on the same level for me personally: La Calisto in Basel, directed by Jan Bosse. Closely followed by the other Basel-productions you're mentioning, The Queen of Spades and Aida. Rusalka and Meistersinger are both on my "want to see"-list. ;)

  2. Forgive me but I don't know where else to ask this here: I hope you'll give a review or information of Dessay's return to Opera de Paris. :-) Thank you. I enjoy your blog very much.

  3. Hey CruzSF! I saw the premiere last night and wrote a succinct blog entry on what I could see ;)