Last year, in our post about New Year’s resolutions, I said I would finally watch Wagner’s Ring cycle. I didn’t. When I was quarantined with chicken pox for a week in April, it would have been the perfect opportunity to plow through all 15 hours of Wagner’s opera epic, but I was over a thousand miles away from the library’s DVD collection. Instead, from my parents’ collection, I watched three Humphrey Bogart movies (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The African Queen). It’s a wonder I didn’t start smoking.
Anyway, even without watching Wagner, I had a 2009 full of opera. I attended 5 live operas, 6 Metropolitan Opera Live in HD simulcasts, and watched 1 DVD. Here are some of my highlights (and perhaps one lowlight):
January 24, 2009 — Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast (Galleria Mills):
Gluck, Christoph Willibald Orfeo ed Euridice
While watching Stephanie Blythe being broadcast live from NYC, I thought about how I saw her in Verdi’s Aida and Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila on stage at the Benedum Center in 2008. That shows the caliber of artists the Pittsburgh Opera brings or develops here.
February 13, 2009 — Pittsburgh Opera (CAPA):
Donizetti, Gaetano Don Pasquale
I think the “Cheti cheti immantinente…Aspetta, aspetta” duet in Act III between Malatesta and Pasquale is the most fist-pumpingly fun patter song in Italian opera. As a well behaved audience member, though, I did not pump my fist, especially since I volunteered as an usher this night.
March 7, 2009 — Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast (Galleria Mills):
Puccini, Giacomo Madama Butterfly
May 8, 2009 — Pittsburgh Opera (Benedum Center):
Rossini, Gioacchino L’Italiana in Algeri
Vivica Genaux is enormously talented but, in a way, the show was stolen by comical bass Paolo Pecchioli in the role of Mustafà. My friend said he was like a Jerry Lewis that can sing.
August 2009 — DVD at home:
Korngold, Erich Wolfgang Die tote Stadt
I am a champion of Korngold, but I was wearied by this DVD from the library’s collection. I believe the opera’s original libretto ends on a hopeful note with Paul locking the door to his late wife’s room and bidding farewell to the obsessive memories and dead city that had haunted him. But in this overwrought French production, it ends with Paul sliding his bloody hand prints down a door labeled “NO EXIT.”
August 6, 2009 — Undercroft Opera (Synod Hall):
Donizetti, Gaetano L’elisir d’amore
It was a joy to see a production that moved the setting from a 19th century Italian village to present-day Hollywood. And since Undercroft Opera showcases local talent, I always spot lots of library users in their casts and crew.
December 19, 2009 — Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast (Galleria Mills):
Offenbach, Jacques Les Contes d’Hoffmann
Although Anna Netrebko was the big name attached to this production, the big surprise was diminutive soprano Kathleen Kim‘s singing of Olympia’s doll song. Kim’s was the best version of that song from the four different productions of Tales of Hoffmann I have seen. Opera fans, she’s someone to look out for in 2010.
And I’ll be looking for you to explore the library’s opera collection in 2010. Make it a resolution you’ll keep.