Worldwide reviews for a worldwide audience
Best Opera Overall
Best Leading Male
Best Leading Female
Best Performance by an Orchestra
Best Set Design
Best Stage Direction
Best Performance by a Chorus
Most Dynamic Couple
The "Best Of" everything we saw and heard in the 2006-2007 opera season.
BEST PERFORMANCE OF A LEADING FEMALE: The winner is, soprano RENÉE FLEMING in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “La Traviata,” and mezzo-soprano LARISA DIADKOVA, in Kirov Opera’s production of “Die Walkure.”
Renée Fleming is a special singer in my mind because she sings with depth of feeling. In my review of her Violetta in Los Angeles Opera’s “La Traviata,” I wrote: “ Fleming’s ‘Ah, fors’č lui’ was haunting. She varied the tempo and color in her voice so that the beauty seemed almost obscure. . . . Fleming’s ‘Addio del passato’ was again hauntingly beautiful with a succession of high tones that pulled the heartstrings.”
But I would be remiss if I didn’t also include in this category Larisa Diadkova who played Fricka in the Kirov Opera’s production of “Die Walküre” in Orange County. I explained in my review that she had a beauty of timbre that is not always evident in Wagnerian sopranos. I wrote that of the female singers in the production, “Mezzo-soprano Larisa Diadkova had the most striking voice. Her high tones were arresting; her lower tones had just the right mix of chest and head; and her secure stage presence communicated sheer confidence.”
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A COMPRIMARIO ROLE: The winner is, REINHARD HAGEN, in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “L’Incoronazione di Poppea.”
Reinhard Hagen as Seneca in Los Angeles Opera’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” is the winner in this category. In my review, I wrote: “Reinhard Hagen as Seneca stood out above the rest because of his rich deep bass. His mellow voice warms one’s insides like a smooth hot toddy. He is young and definitely on the way up.”
BEST PERFORMANCE OF A CHORUS: The winner is, SAN DIEGO OPERA CHORUS, in San Diego Opera’s production of “Boris Godunov.”
By far the best choral work was performed by San Diego Opera’s chorus in “Boris Godunov.” I wrote: “The chorus, under the direction of Timothy Todd Simmons, was wonderful. Even the children sang in Russian.” Then: “The performers, including the choristers and supernumeraries, were in character at all times, responding to their environment with actions that were appropriate even when they weren’t in the limelight.”
BEST STAGE DIRECTION: The winner is, FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO, in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Porgy & Bess.”
Francesca Zambello is my choice here. I can’t say that my review of “Porgy and Bess” was all that favorable, but Zambello; Garnett Bruce, her associate director; and Rita D’Angelo Tikador, her assistant director, certainly made the singing actors appear like Broadway performers. I wrote: “Francesca Zambello’s directing was right on target. In so many operas, the singers can sing, but they struggle to portray their characters. In this production . . . the singers’ acting was realistic and believable.”
BEST SET DESIGN: The winner is PETER J. DAVIDSON, for Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Porgy & Bess.”
I really liked the sets in Los Angeles Opera’s “Porgy and Bess.” I suppose you’d have to see them to understand. I wrote: “The sets, designed by Peter J. Davison, were pieced together with what looked like rusty iron and leveled to create a feeling of skeletal fragility.” I just loved the look.
BEST LIGHTING: The winner is MARK DOUBLEDAY, in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Tannhauser.”
Again, Los Angeles Opera’s “Tannhauser” wins in this category. In my review, I wrote about the different hues of color: of the red hue that changed to white that changed to green. The lighting designed by Mark Doubleday was also very effective in the bacchanal scene. “The lighting illuminated our senses,” I wrote.
BEST COSTUMES: The winner is, THIERRY BOSQUET, in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “The Merry Widow.”
I actually didn’t write too much about the costumes in my review of L.A. Opera’s “The Merry Widow,” but I did refer to them as being “lavish,” enabling the production to “snap, crackle and pop.” I also wrote of Susan Graham’s “tall, statuesque body in gowns of red and black-and-white,” which revealed a Dolly Levi-like look (as in “Hello, Dolly!”). Thierry Bosquet’s costumes really dazzled us during the dance sequences. The men looked debonair, and the women, enchanting.
COUPLE WITH THE MOST SIZZLE: The winners are, ROLANDO VILLAZÓN and ANNA NETREBKO in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Manon.”
You guessed it: Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko were the most dynamic couple. In this instance, the production was Los Angeles Opera’s “Manon.” I wrote: “Villazón and Netrebko first sang together in Los Angeles a couple of years ago in L.A. Opera’s production of Gounod’s ‘Roméo et Juliette,’ then went on to worldwide fame as the ‘love’ couple because of their onstage chemistry. But the phenomenon is not really [just] about chemistry. It’s more about two singer-actors who pour so much energy into their roles that the audience is able to feel their spirit. Netrebko and Villazón give every tone and movement their all. . . . We are taken in by the entire package: their singing, beauty, acting, stage presence and movement.”
Best Performance of a Leading Female
Best Stage Direction
Los Angeles Opera's, "Porgy & Bess." Photo by Robert Milard
Kirov Opera's "La Traviata." Photo OperaOnline.us, not a production shot.
Couple with the Most Sizzle
Los Angeles Opera's, "Manon." Photo, courtesy LA Opera
Los Angeles Opera's, "Tannhauser." Photo by Robert
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BEST PERFORMANCE OF A LEADING MALE: The winner is, PLÁCIDO DOMINGO, tenor, in Kirov Opera’s production of “Die Walküre,” and bass FERRUCCIO FURLANETTO, in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Don Carlo.”
I have selected two singers with voices on opposite ends of the spectrum: a tenor and a bass. As Siegmund in the Kirov Opera’s “Die Walküre” during the Mariinsky Festival at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Plácido Domingo gave a stupendous performance. What makes Domingo so singular when performing Wagner is that he doesn’t have a typical heldentenor sound. His tones are never strained, and they burst forth in a very glorious Italianate Latin way.”
I also liked Ferruccio Furlanetto’s performance as King Philip II in Los Angeles Opera’s “Don Carlo.” Once you hear Furlanetto’s rich, mellow voice, you never forget it, and you find yourself wanting to hear it again and again. He gave another rich performance as Boris in San Diego Opera's "Boris Godunov."