Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Operatic Vengeance Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

I was planning to do a Top Ten of 2006 sort of list, but I realized midway through that I had seen so few productions that my lists were going to overlap. Since I'm nothing if not a sheep though, I've decided to steal from the Academy and give out my own meaningless awards! Also, because I'm also nothing if not negative and critical, there will be a "Worst of" Award. I'm a negative sheep! Does that mean I think things are baaaaad? ... *cough* I'll see myself out.

Best Performance by a Male Singer in a Supporting Role: Though Gurnemanz has a buttload of music to sing, I guess he's still a supporting character in that he's fairly flat (it seems like the only change in him is that his hair goes gray and, if he's being sung by René Pape, he gets DTs). Anyway, the award goes to René Pape for his compelling, rich-voiced Gurnemanz in the Met's Parsifal.

Now I'll slip in a few of those b.s. awards that no one cares about.

Best Performance by a Instrumental Soloist: Violinist Anthony Marwood playing Adès's Violin Concerto. While I wasn't entirely sold on Adès's bleep-bloop-bleep music, Marwood was tremendous, and he managed to play three nights in a row without getting a single spot on his white suit. Runner-up: Martin Chalifour playing the solo violin in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Chalifour is a wonderful concertmaster, but I'd like to hear him play solo more often.

Best Costumes: This is a tough one, since most opera costume designers seem to be colorblind, brain-damaged velour-enthusiasts. I guess the award goes by default to the costumes in Rodelinda, because they were somewhat era-appropriate, weren't made out of bathmats or vinyl tablecoths, and didn't make me want to retch.

Best Performance by a Female Singer in a Supporting Role: Laura Claycomb as Queen Wealtheow in LA Opera's Grendel. Wealtheow was not much more than an object in Grendel, but she was supposed to represent sheer beauty, and Claycomb's voice was certainly that. Runner-up: Cyndia Sieden's seemingly non-stop Es and Fs as Ariel in Adès's Tempest Suite at the LA Phil. It wasn't the most pleasing sound in the world, but it was amazing nonetheless.

Best Set/Production: While the clap-happy audiences at the Met might say Rodelinda, I have to go with Grendel. Julie Taymor's work, instead of being obnoxious and full of freaky animatronic lion cubs, was fairly ingenious. In fact, her design was so strong that it was far more memorable than any of the music in the opera.

The Brokeback Mountain Award for Best Man-on-Man Action: Kurt Streit and Nicholas Phan in LA Opera’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea. When Nerone has more chemistry with some random guy than he does with Poppea, you know something’s wrong (but it felt so right!). As an aside, this category wins the “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard” Award for most dated, clichéd reference.

Best Performance by a Female Singer in a Lead Role: Without a doubt, this award goes to Waltraud Meier for her spellbinding Kundry in the Met’s Parsifal. She was fascinating yet wild, a vulnerable temptress, and finally a hero. And all without a single karate chop movement or a maroon sack dress of evil. Fancy that, Robert Wilson.

Best Performance by a Male Singer in a Lead Role: This is a tough one. How to choose between Simon Keenlyside’s Pelléas in Salzburg and Andreas Scholl’s Bertarido in New York? Keenlyside maybe didn’t sing as beautifully as he did in Boston in 2003, and he was stuck in that ridiculous Ashes-to-Ashes Pierrot costume, but his acting was prismatic, subtle, and frankly much better than the production deserved.

Scholl, on the other hand, was weaker acting-wise (though his improvement is astounding), but his voice at all three performances was near perfect. In Handel’s slower arias, Scholl has a way of seeming to stop time with his voice. He's been called the Clark Kent of Countertenors, so maybe that's his superpower?

Eh, I can’t decide, so let’s call it a tie! Hurray!

Honorable Mention goes to Eric Owens for his career-making performance in the title role of Grendel.

And now, for the First Annual Operatic Vengeance Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence…

The award for best overall performance goes to… the Met’s Rodelinda, in spite of Renée Fleming. Rodelinda had Scholl, plus a good supporting cast, and the sets, while over-elaborate, weren’t maddening as they were in the Salzburg Pelléas. Cake for everyone! Well, everyone except Fleming, the conductor who thought Handel was the same as Puccini, and whoever decided to cut two of Bertarido’s arias. They can have the cake decorations, which are inedible and will probably lead to bowel obstructions.

Next up, the Phlegming Awards.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home