Wednesday 21 December 2011

Highs and Lows of 2011

We've reached that time when the critics start picking their best and worst shows of 2011. For those which I've awarded prizes to, I have (I hope) also created links to my original reviews...

Best Opera: This is a tie between Glyndebourne's new Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and the Mariinsky's Die Frau ohne Schatten which came to Edinburgh in August. Gerald Finley and Vladimir Jurowski were the stars of the former, the latter was a genuine company triumph.

Worst Opera: The Coliseum had a generally diabolical year in the first half of 2011, but the worst of the lot was unquestionably Christopher Alden's silent play with music by Benjamin Britten and words by William Shakespeare (in other words the god-awful A Midsummer Night's Dream). Another blogger recently described it as “anathema to loyalists to an Aldeburgh that never was” (boulezian). Never having known Aldeburgh in Britten's time I can only say that it committed the worst crime in my operatic book by being a production totally contrary to the spirit and meaning of the text (and most of the time the music). Running it a close second was the company's almost as awful Lucrezia Borgia the Film.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Where's Runnicles' favourite recordings issued in 2011

Last year, when I rounded up my favourite discs, I felt pretty spoilt for choice. I don't feel quite the same this year, yet there are still a good few things worth highlighting. As with last year, I accompany this post with a Spotify playlist (on which all but one of the discs are available). For multidisc sets, I have only included a few highlights. We'll begin with the disc I hoped for at the end of last year's post.

Charles Mackerras may have died in 2010, but there continues to be a steady stream of recordings, mostly live concert tapings, bearing his name. The finest of these is, for me, his recording of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony with the Philharmonia. I've written about this already and have little to add. The performance made for a memorable concert and the CD is equally fine, whether it be the energy the eighty-three year old brings to the third movement, or the emotional weight they find in the finale.