Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Year In Recap

A lot of things happened in 2010... even in my little corner of the big world. The ground was shaky here earlier in the year after a slew of earthquakes, though we haven't had a good jolt for many months now (which means that I have to invent up new excuses for my tendency to bump into things). Our summer was milder than usual, and rain arrived way ahead of schedule - rendering us quite a good colorful fall season.

I made many new friends, some in unlikely places. It's the one luck I do have that I keep running into really interesting, intelligent, decent and caring people online who are so nice to me even though we may never meet in real life (and the few that I have actually met are as wonderful as they seem in the cyber space!). You know who you are, I hope. Best of greetings to you all!

Another year and another move to a new living quarter... this time quite out of the city. It is hard getting anywhere from here via foot or public transportation, though I get to walk past a few hawks almost daily, and got to discover a few special places in the neighborhood. A fair compensation!

Got involved in a few projects I didn't mean to get involve in, though they all turned out ok. I discovered that I can still hit a golf ball without ending up causing anyone a serious bodily injury... Mentally, though, that is another story.
San Diego Opera stage crew changing set during La Traviata (April 2010)
Going to live opera performances at the San Diego Opera was a treat as usual. I finally got to hear Piotr Beczala live as Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme, and the rest of the cast was also quite fine. Never in my wildest dream did I think I'd get to see a staged performance of Verdi's Nabucco, but I did... in a pretty compelling staging at that. Richard Paul Fink was a commanding Nebuchadnezzar and Sylvie Valayre was as nasty as Abigaille needed to be. I was charmed by Ailyn Perez in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, though her husband, Stephen Costello pissed me off with his insistence on putting a fermata on nearly all of his high notes. Then Elizabeth Futral came back to town as a very fetching Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata, and it was a real pleasure to get to hear that opera's overture from the beautiful acoustic of the Civic Theater's upper balcony.

The SD Opera's 2011 season is still shortened to 4 operas due to the sluggish economy, though they do pack a lot of punches. Puccini's Turandot opens the season, followed by Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier that features the role debut for Anja Harteros as Die Marschallin. Ferrucio Furlanetto was to essay Baron Ochs for the first time here, but has decided to shelf that project for the time being, so we'll hear Andrew Greenan in the role instead. As our Octavian and Sophie will be the German mezzo Anke Vondung and Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi. Both of which I am very much looking forward to hearing live for the first time! Then Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello return as the ill-fated couple in Gounod's Faust. Another company debut is planned with Nino Surguladze in the title role of Bizet's Carmen.

I also went to a few Met HD opera broadcast to the movie theater in Mission Valley: Carmen with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna, then Der Rosenkavalier with Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Christine Schaefer. Loved the former, though the latter was a really long evening (thanks in no small part to the two 50 minutes long intermissions! As if this opera isn't long enough on its own already!).

Elina Garanca, the nearly impossibly gorgeous in many ways Latvian mezzo-soprano is an artist over whom I have occasionally gotten publicly frustrated for her prioritization of clean singing over portrayal of the music's dramatic content (she says so herself in a 2009 interview with Matthew Gurewitsch) was a revelation. I first encountered her as Annio in the awesome DVD of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito from the 2003 Salzburg Festival and thought she had great potential. Though in subsequent CD and DVD encounters I was often frustratingly bored by her technical perfection...

But a talent like this shouldn't be given up on, and so I check back on her every so often. Giving people second and third chances is one of the few things in life that consistently pays back well. She is turning up quite more expressive than she once was... And sometimes even in surprisingly delightful manner!

Garanca in a much lighter mood with the drunk song from Offenbach's La Perichole.

I also went to a few symphony concerts around town. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is now ranked quite respectably as a first tier American orchestra. I have mixed feelings about them... I love their wind and brass section, and the rest of the group are also technically fantastic. They turn up colorful and fiery at the opera, but in concert setting they often sound the notes beautifully without saying anything with them. This season is their 100th, and so quite a great line up of soloists headlining shows. The soloists usually leave after the first half, though, so the second half performances have been somewhat underwhelming by contrast (it's hard on drama-oriented audiences like me to go back to hearing pretty sound after a really communicative musical experience).

I also had a good time listening to the San Diego Master Chorale and the medieval music specialist group Courtly Noyse... and discovering many more wonderful young opera singers (another cheerful thank you to Samantha Farber at SONO Artists Consulting for facilitating delicious interviews with a few of them).

Alas, I didn't make it to Europe to catch my favorite muse, Vesselina Kasarova, in one of her best roles (Ruggiero in Handel's Alcina). I would get depressed about it, but was saved by reports of the many friends who managed to attend (most did in multiple shows!) and by the news that the Vienna shows were recorded for DVD release!

Wait a bit... I think I hear an owl from somewhere outside the window. Better go and see if I can catch a glimpse. Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and fabulous 2011!



yvette said...

What a fantastic post! Yes! great news this Alcina DVD! Have a nice
Christmas with friends and dear pets! Best wishes my dear Mitchell
et aussi très bonne année, j'espère reprendre ma plume d'ici là! Big hugs. Yvette.

Steven said...

Sylvie Valayre as Abigaille? She of the 'dancing bumblebees' fame? Hope the SD production made more sense.

Looks like you had a musically wonderful 2010, hope 2011 will be the year that you and the rest of us get better acquainted with Kassarova's Ruggiero in Alcina!

Smorg said...

Bonne année Yvette!
I hope your 2011 has started well and is filled with happy and interesting memories, too. :oD

Thank you so much for yet another kind mention on your blog (I'm afraid I'm still not able to comment there for some weird reason)! And for mentioning all those great blogs you've been reading. Some I hadn't seen before and was very glad to finally get to visit. :oD

Big hugs from chilly and clear San Diego,
Smorgy :o)

Smorg said...

Hiya Steven!
Yup, La Valayre of the dancing bee Nabucca (in)fame(y) indeed. Though she was much better treated by the SDO's regie and got to remain quite human through out the show. :oD

Really, she did quite well with Abigaille... shredded top and all. The young opera newbie couple that sat next to me were both appalled and fascinated by her voice (they said she sounded terrible, but they also thought her a great villain for it). I tend to agree. ;o)

Hope all is well and that 2011 will prove the happiest and interesting year yet for ya'. Thanks for stopping by!

Smorgy :o)

Georg said...

Hi Smorgy old opera lover,

Just finished listening to the YT recording of ALCINA with splendid V. Kasarova.

As one of the speakers said, it is a pity that those baroque operas are so infrequently played. However, that nincompoop Adrian Nobel spoils it a bit with his meanless pratter.

I have never seen a baroque opera in my life and would love to have the occasion. But I would be happy to see it performed in a way consistent with the libretto and the composer's music. It is not forbidden to dream.