Saturday, 17 December 2011

2011 - A Year of Opera

On 30th December 2010 I became a Friend of Covent Garden for the first time, and made a new year's resolution to attend more theatre, especially opera. So began what has truly been a year of opera, and what a year it's been. 2011 hasn't been the best year for me personally, but it has been a year of discovery and delight in terms of opera. The beauty, drama, passion, excitement, sadness, comedy, joy and desperation that is opera means there's been an opera for every mood and every occasion! Living in London means I've been incredibly spoilt in terms of the quality I've had available to me. I've been lucky enough to see Angela Gheorghiu twice, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel and Placido Domingo all performing at one of the world's greatest opera houses. I've delighted in some fantastic conductors, especially Antonio Pappano at the ROH, but also Sir Simon Rattle at the Royal Festival Hall. I've seen fantastic new productions of the Tsars Bride, Il trittico and Eugene Onegin as well as brand new opera with Anna Nicole. I've also seen some breathtaking performances of some old classics with Madama Butterfly and Tosca, both at the ROH.

My absolute highlight of 2011 has to be Tosca at the ROH in the summer staring a blockbuster cast with Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel and conducted by Antonio Pappano. Tosca is one of my all time favourite operas, and a chance to see it performed with such a world class cast and conductor with a renowned opera chorus and orchestra should never be missed. The performance in July of this year will stay with me forever, it was everything I love about opera, drama, suspense, brilliant music, brilliant singing and all topped off with a prolonged standing ovation and a million bravos! This really was a special evening, opera at it's very, very best. If you're intrigued to see this performance for yourself, you're in luck! Tune in to BBC 2 at 2:35pm on 24th December when the exact performance I attended will be screened. Preceding this at 1:35pm there is a programme hosted by Antonio Pappano exploring the Rome of Tosca that is the setting of the opera. Not to be missed!

Of the other operas of 2011, the productions that really stand out at Anna Nicole, the Tsars Bride, Il trittico and Eugene Onegin. Anna Nicole, back in February, saw a brand new opera staged at the ROH, and one with a very modern, but classic opera theme. Based on the life and times of Anna Nicole Smith, this was a great evening, with brilliant staging and singing. The score and libretto weren't especially memorable, but who cares?? It was an engaging story and it was brilliant to see the ROH filled with probably the most diverse audience i've ever seen! It was also fun to see the opera house decked out in Anna Nicole memorabilia! Great fun. The Tsars Bride was a special occasion for two reasons. The first was because I managed to get an Orchestra Stalls seat for the bargain price of £10 under the student stand by scheme. These seats can retail at up to £208, so this was a serious bargain and a great view! Secondly, the staging was brilliant. It brought the opera up to modern day Moscow, with corruption, the Mafia and oligarchs all featuring. The opera itself wasn't that memorable, although the cast were great, and the staging vivid.

Moving into the begining of this blog back in September, Il trittico kick started the 2011/12 season at the ROH. This was a great and I understand rare production. A series of three operas, they're not often performed together, but seperately. It was great to see them as a full trio, and each one was uniquely staged and expressed a very different theme, from the darkness of Il tabbaro, to the sadness of Sour Angelica through to the genuine comedy and uplifting feel of Gianni Schicchi. Brilliant evening. The last opera of the year, which actually falls outside of this blog but had to be mentioned anyway, was the English National Opera's Eugene Onegin. A new production in association with the New York Met Opera, i really enjoyed this. The music was brilliant and the staging was evocative, the story engaging. I'm really glad I took the time to see this, and it's raised my opinions of the ENO considerably.

2012 kicks off straight away with Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg on January 1st. Fancy indulging?? It's broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from 2:45pm. it looks set to be another packed year ahead for me - there's Anna Netrebko's appearance in La traviata in January, the Mozart/Da Ponte cycle of operas, La boheme with the Alagna's in the summer, Jonas Kaufman back at the ROH for a new production Les Troyens in the summer also and of course October 2012 sees the mighty Der Ring das Nibelungen with Bryn Terfel and Pappano conducting. Exciting times ahead!

Well, until January that's it from me. Happy Christmas and a brilliant new year to all, make sure you catch Tosca on Christmas Eve, eat too much, drink too much, be merry!