Friday, 29 December 2017

Distant Sounds's Top Ten Operatic Productions of 2017

Activity has admittedly been rather sparse on this blog this year, as my reviewing has tended to appear elsewhere – at Bachtrack, and in Opera and in The Wagner Journal. But I thought it worthwhile to put together a short summary of my year’s musical adventures - my own personal top ten operatic experiences of 2017. (Photos all copyright photographers indicated.)

10 Lulu/Hamburg State Opera

Photo: Monika Rittershaus
A somewhat mystifying staging by Christoph Martaler that came up with its own solution to the opera’s incomplete state by replacing much of Act III’s dramaturgy with an enacted performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto, eloquently played by Veronika Eberle. Most impressive was Barbara Hannigan’s vocally and physically athletic assumption of the title role. Bachtrack review here

9 Die Gezeichneten/Bavarian State Opera

Photo: Wilfred Hosl
The first of Germany’s premier-league opera houses to bring Schreker’s magnum opus back into its repertoire after nearly a century, Munich threw its best at it: top-notch cast, a typically smart-looking production by Krzysztof Warlikowski and a sumptuous performance from the BSO orchestra under Ingo Metzmacher. Bachtrack review here 

8 Mathis der Maler/Staatstheater Mainz

Photo: Andreas Etter
A spare but effective presentation of Hindemith’s viscerally political opera in the city in which it is largely set. Review here

7 Elektra/Mannheim National Theatre

Photo: Hans Jorg Michel
A revival of Ruth Berghaus’s iconic 1980 staging, dominated by the towering portrayal of Elektra by Catherine Foster, and a searing interpretation of the score from Alexander Soddy and the orchestra. Bachtrack review here

6 Pelléas et Mélisande/Frankfurt Opera

Photo: Barbara Aumuller
Another revival, this time of Claus Guth’s five-year-old production of Debussy’s opera that mesmerised with its intensity and focus, and was swiftly but marvellously conducted by Joana Mallwitz. Bachtrack review here

5 Das Wunder der Heliane/Flanders Opera

Photo: Annemie Augustijns
A triumphant vindication of Korngold’s most ‘problematic’ opera, with a straightforwardly literal staging of the plot from David Bösch and an intense reading of the title role from Ausrine Stundyte. (Not reviewed.)

4 Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald/Theater Hagen

Photo: Klaus Lefebvre
A real discovery for me this year was H.K. Gruber’s operatic version of Horváth’s play about a dysfunctional family in interwar Vienna – a richly referential score grippingly performed by the Hagen ensemble. (Not reviewed.)

3 Hamlet/Glyndebourne on Tour

Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Everyone’s favourite new opera of 2017, but seeing it for the first time on the Glyndebourne Tour (Milton Keynes Theatre) made me see why: a fascinating, resourceful score and performances of truly Shakespearean breadth and depth from the cast. (Not reviewed.)

2 Penthesilea/Bonn Opera

Photo: Thilo Beu
Another new discovery for me: Othmar Schoeck’s adaptation of Kleist’s Greek drama proved to be a bit like Elektra on steroids – a highly physical but scintillating score and single span of drama thrillingly staged by Peter Konwitschny. (Review forthcoming in Opera magazine.)

1 Götterdämmerung/Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

Photo: Matthias Baus
Difficult to decide between my top three, but Tobias Kratzer’s irreverent conclusion to Karlsruhe’s multi-director Ring Cycle really made my year: an ingenious, meta-theatrical staging that both drew together the threads of the previous directors’ ideas and made its own mark, with an impressive ensemble cast boding well for the full cycles in the spring. (Review forthcoming in March 2018 issue of The Wagner Journal.)

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