Monday, January 06, 2014

The past year: performers

A soprano triumph in Norma seems to me a bit like a baseball player's Triple Crown: any measure or measurer that judges this rarity not the most significant individual accomplishment of the year has lost all historical perspective. (Just don't ask me to explain Cabrera's win this season.) That's a general view, though. The particulars of Sondra Radvanovsky's thrilling, all-out, high-wire, and shockingly fine-calibrated Norma -- and, though less so, of its follow-up Tosca -- in any case still loom large in my mind, and should resound through the rest of her career.

Not to forget anyone else. Martina Serafin, too, had two excellent runs, in the Lotte Lehmann parts of Sieglinde and the Marschallin, and showed in her Met debut year a truly welcome transparency of sound and emotion -- as did Christine Goerke in the most taxing of Lehmann parts, the Dyer's Wife. Mark Delavan finally got to do Wotan here (opposite Serafin)... and he was really quite good. Peter Mattei has long been familiar, but who would have expected that a transcendently pained (though unfailingly eloquent) Amfortas would almost overshadow the second (after, of course, Don Giovanni) of his born-to-sing-it definitive assumptions, Onegin (full post soon)? Indeed there are many to praise, from the above repeat players to stalwart low-voice wonders Stephanie Blythe, Stefan Kocan, and Richard Bernstein to the one-offs and backups who -- and I'm not sure whether it's more to the house's credit (for hiring) or discredit (for not originally featuring) -- significantly improved Les Troyens (Bryan Hymel), Frau (Meagan Miller), and the aforementioned Tosca (Ricardo Tamura).

But in a year when the ambitious revivals of Troyens and Frau were more or less (with Troyens being the way more before Hymel took over) let down by tenor limitations, I suppose I should also single out the one leading man who not only sang impressively but thoroughly suited his part and production. It's true, Jonas Kaufmann had a Parsifal show not just seemingly but literally made for his performance, but the unique and fascinatingly significant core he gave to the piece -- the transformation of his fragmentary persona therein, under director Francois Girard's guidance, into a vessel of sacred emptiness -- was a rare tenoristic wonder.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.