Opera + Classical Music Features

Classical and Opera: The Best Of 2014

In March, The Royal Opera House and the Globe Theatre collaborated in a staging of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, which we described as “gloriously sung, exquisitely played and above all entertaining from beginning to end.” It’s good to know that a revival begins in February. The ROH also scored highly on our ‘best of’ lists with Robert Carsen’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, especially for Deborah Polaski’s soul searching Prioress. December’s revival of Christof Loy’s controversial Tristan und Isolde was chosen as one of our best chiefly for its two central performances: you can judge for yourself on BBC iPlayer.

Out of London, November’s Mariinsky Ring Cycle in Birmingham was “musically outstanding” and both Garsington and Glyndebourne scored very highly, the former with its ideal Fidelio which made such moving use of the unique setting, and the latter with its classic Graham Vick staging of Eugene Onegin in May and its welcome revival of Handel’s “funny, feisty, finely sung” Rinaldo in August. Beyond the opera house, concert performances at the Barbican, of Boris Godunov by the Mariinsky Opera, and at the Royal Festival Hall, of Pelléas et Mélisande by the Philharmonia Orchestra and soloists, also made strong impressions.

There were some particularly fine recitals this year, the Wigmore Hall featuring strongly from concerts by Matthias Goerne and Leif Ove Andsnes in January to Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber in December, with notable contributions in between from the Frith Piano Quartet, Anthony Marwood & Friends, the countertenor Franco Fagioli and ‘Orfeo 55‘ with Nathalie Stutzmann. At the Barbican, our critics raved over Joyce di Donato in September, and Les Talens Lyriques in March.

In the concert hall, the RPO impressed under Dutoit at the RFH and with Mandeal at Cadogan Hall. At the Barbican, the BBCSO under Oramo and the LSO under Fabio Luisi were very highly rated, as were the Philharmonia under Jakob Hrůša and the LPO under Jurowski at the RFH. Proms with glowing reviews included the semi-staged Elektra from the BBC SO under Bychkov and Peter Sellars’ realization of the St Matthew Passion, and outside of London, the opening day of the Bristol Proms in July.

And the worst? We don’t go in for the sort of personal, musically irrelevant observations which some others seem to feel are warranted. Judging by comments such as this one, made about one of our reviews this year – “At last – a review about music and musicians, beautifully written, and with no self-indulgent side-swipes at individuals” – we seem to have got it right. Of course, there have been disappointing moments, amongst which we’d nominate the misjudged groping scene between Idomeneo and Ilia in the ROH production of Mozart’s great opera; the ENO’s Mozart also comes to mind in the shape of the Così fan tutte, which we found to be treading a safe path whilst purporting to be outrageous. Despite these, it’s been a good year in the opera house, and we’re eagerly anticipating what 2015 brings – watch this space.

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