Tuesday 31 December 2013

Highs and Lows of 2013

We've reached that time of year again…

Best Opera: Honorable mentions go to the outstandingly sung revival of Don Carlo at the Royal Opera (I was lucky enough to hear Anja Harteros's sole performance) and the Proms Gotterdammerung (Andreas Schager's moving Siegfried especially lives in my memory) but the outstanding opera event of 2013 was Aldeburgh Music's Grimes on the Beach in both its Maltings and seaside incarnations.

Worst Opera: The Edinburgh International Festival had a pretty terrible year as far as opera and theatre was concerned (the technology theme was almost universally a kiss of death) but the Lyon Opera production of Fidelio which Jonathan Mills unwisely programmed was especially awful.

Best Play: Sadly undervalued by other critics (Southern snobbery perhaps?), but for me the finest play of the year was the outstanding Port at the National Theatre, featuring Kate O'Flynn's remarkable debut there.

Worst Play: There was exceptionally strong competition for this award in 2013. The National Theatre and the Old Vic made late attempts to capture it with the former's appalling Edward II (“My goodness this stage is frighteningly large I think I'll put everybody inside a box and film them”) and the latter's equally awful Much Ado About Nothing (“Are you sure this is supposed to be a comedy?”). But for sheer wrist slittingly boring pretentious awfulness the award has to go to the Wooster Group at the Edinburgh International Festival for their version of Hamlet.

Best Musical: A show which I didn't review at the time but which the Young Vic deserves huge praise for bringing to London: Kander and Ebb's The Scottsboro Boys. Not their finest score, but a searing history lesson, superbly performed.

Worst Musical: No Award.

A Reminder on Neglected Shows: I am still waiting for productions of Stephen Oliver's Timon of Athens  (yes, English National Opera I am still looking at you), Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone's 1776 (any number of off-West End spaces ought to be able to put this on) and a UK premiere for Mamet's November.

What am I Looking forward to in 2014: The National has a really exciting spring line-up including Simon Russell Beale's Lear and the return of Kate O'Flynn in A Taste of Honey. English Touring Opera's long anticipated King Priam and Paul Bunyan start their tour in February. Die Frau ohne Schatten arrives at the Royal Opera at the end of March (and should be musically superb even if reports of the production lead me to suspect it won't come near the brilliant Jonathan Kent staging for the Mariinsky).

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