03 January 2005

Better Late than Later

My Top 10 List of Memorable Performances of the Met's 2004


Roberto Alagna, Werther in Werther: The year 2004 opened for me with a Werther built by a rare mix of delicacy and passion too painful to behold. Alagna's stage presence and vocal color are perfect for this tragic role. The Met ought to pirate Alagna from the clutches of European houses.

David Daniels, Bertarido in Rodelinda: His performance proves that countertenoring is a legitimate vocal art, and not just a Barnum & Bailey spectacle. Bertarido's largo arias are among the most beautiful I've heard from the Met stage in recent years.

Renée Fleming, Violetta in La Traviata: Technically a 2003 event, but the Traviata troupe came back in March of 2004 for three performances (including the Saturday broadcast), qualifying her Violetta as among my 10 best this year. Try as they may to discredit her formidable artistry, La Diva Renée, in the coming years, will be regarded rightfully as among the most memorable Violetta interpreters in recorded history.

Juan Diego Florez, Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri: This is an easy choice to make. Florez is the sweetest, purest, most joyous thing I've heard this year.

Ben Heppner, Otello in Otello: A surprise selection, but I think he may have even topped his brilliant Les Troyens Aeneas from two years ago with this terrifying Otello. The broadcast this coming Saturday should sparkle amidst many great Otello recordings of the past, due also to a touching Desdemona in Barbara Frittoli and nuanced conducting by James Levine.

Karita Mattila, Salome in Salome: Everything has already been said, printed, posted, screamed, dreamed, lionized, memorialized, canonized ... her Salome is easily the most miraculous achievement of the year.

Adrienne Pieczonka, Lisa in Queen of Spades: The thrilling vocal power she exhibited as Lisa blew some of the circuitry in my ears, but quite pleasurably and with much gratitude. Unfortunately, she had none of it for her Sieglindes this season: could have been the most orgasmic event for these bitchy Diaries!

Sondra Radvanovsky, Elena in I Vespri Siciliani: Still a work in progress, but already making memorable strides, Sondra has the natural talent and distinctive timbre to plow through the many Verdi heroines currently languishing in mediocrity.

Gerhard Siegel, Mime in Siegfried: I'm not a connoisseur of male voices (a handicap I intend to correct in the coming years), but in my limited breadth, I was still struck by Siegel's vivid creation of Mime, a character I often overlook when visiting various Rings on records.

Deborah Voigt, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser: The girl has lost the poundage (80 so they say...), but kept the silver of her voice. As Elisabeth, she continues her historic tour of the great Wagnerian heldensopranos. I await her overdue Isolde at the Met, and anticipate with a mix of fear and excitement her daring ascendance as Brünnhilde.

Honorable Mentions

Elisabeth Bishop, Venus in Tannhäuser
Stephanie Blythe, Eduige in Rodelinda
Olga Borodina, Isabella in L'Italiana in Algeri
Marianne Cornetti, Amneris in Aida
Renée Fleming, Rodelinda in Rodelinda
Barbara Frittoli, Desdemona in Otello
Thomas Hampson, Wolfram in Tannhäuser
Anja Harteros, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni
Vesselina Kasarova, Charlotte in Werther
Bejun Mehta, Unulfo in Rodelinda
James Morris, Wotan/Der Wanderer in Der Ring
Susan Neves, Abigaille in Nabucco
Leo Nucci, Monforte in I Vespri Siciliani
Peter Seiffert, Tannhäuser in Tannhäuser
Deborah Voigt, Sieglinde in Die Walküre