My Year of Opera: Year End Review

That was the year that was. My little project to watch one opera a week was a grand success, in my humble opinion, even though I didn’t always watch one opera per week (and played catch-up). And then there was June in which I got bored with the project and just listened to every Robert Ashley opera. I didn’t blog as thoroughly on some operas as I did on others but, as a whole, I got everything I wanted to get out of this year.

Tis the season for Year End Lists and what self-respecting blogger would I be without putting one together? Oh, wait, I forgot. Bloggers don’t have self-respect. Oh well, too late now. Please note, I didn’t over-think any of these choices.

BEST S&M SCENE
While Parsifal is a close runner-up (hah!), Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre clearly wins this category.

PERFORMER CLEARLY HAVING MORE FUN THAN EVERYONE ELSE
Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare

BEST STORYTELLING
By this I mean best drama or story, separated from the music. Silent Night, Dialogue of the Carmelites, Peter Grimes, Trouble in Tahiti, and Moby Dick all stand out in this respect. But there can be only one, so it is Dialogue of the Carmelites.

BEST ADAPTATION OF A REALLY DENSE BOOK I’VE NEVER READ
Moby Dick. All the story, some of the existential underpinnings, none of the boredom.

MOST INSPIRING “I CAN DO THAT” REALIZATION
Baroque opera’s chunky plot-delivery system and the small amount of text required for extended arias certainly makes librettists breath a sigh of relief, but I’m going to go with Trouble in Tahiti. No, I don’t think I can make something as good as Bernstein did there but I certainly feel capable of writing something of that scope and scale.

BIGGEST SURPRISE ENJOYMENT
French opera.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
200 Motels.

THE “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” AWARD
The last act of Rigoletto, the blow job scene in Powder Her Face, most of La Grand Macabre, Joey Fatone in The Fantasticks, Peter Grimes, these are all things that were surreal and riveting. The best, though, has to be the final scene of Dialogue of the Carmelites.

BEST “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHAT I JUST SAW” OPERA
Peter Grimes. What a great opera, what a conflicted tale.

OPERAS I DIDN’T WATCH THIS YEAR BUT REALLY WANTED TO
Saint Francis of Assisi, The Minotaur, The Saint of Bleecker Street, The Crucible, Satyagraha, Lady McBeth of Mtsenk, Dialogue of the Carmelites in French, Turn of the Screw

MISCELLANEOUS REVELATIONS
The main soprano role seems to have the second female aria.
Big tenor arias seem to happen at the start of Act 3.
I like bel canto.
Wagner’s operas are mostly people just standing there telling you about exciting things that happened somewhere else.
Subtitles are a must, no matter the sung language.
The French hate nuns.
If an opera is named after you, your life sucks.
Comedic operas are much more rare than I thought.
Ensemble singing is something I need to figure out and make sure my librettist can work in.
Movie stagings of opera only work when they really take advantage of what movies can do.
Composers are going to be more conservative when writing for voice, especially when making something as financially and logistically complex as opera.
Opera is totally worth it.

BEST OPERA
You guessed it: Dialogue of the Carmelites.

ONLY EARWORM
For all the music I heard, all the arias sung and choruses chorused, there is only ONE TUNE that randomly gets stuck in my head. My mother will be proud.

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