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The 2013 year in review for opera in Minnesota

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Rating performances in any genre is never easy. Particularly with operas, the difference in quality among the performances of some of the old war horses often hinges upon a missed note or a faulty set design. New additions to the repertoire often are over-praised for their innovation or overlooked for the same reason.

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Still, opera in Minnesota can be regarded as healthy and thriving in terms of innovation and technique. Below in ascending order is an idiosyncratic list of the top five operas performed in the Twin Cities this year:

5.“Agent Fidelio: A Picnic Operetta”—In terms of creativity Mixed Precipitation's operetta version of Beethoven’s only opera burlesques heroic rescue opera while adapting the staging to a variety of outdoor locales. Great fun and great inventiveness.

4. “Doubt”—A more conventionally innovative opera derived from the play by John Patrick Shanley, this high-concept work scored low for a score that evoked all the sonority of repeated clashes of antlers by two old moose fighting for dominance.

3. “Der Ring des Nibelungun”—David Seaman’s compact version of composer Richard Wagner’s magnum opus received grand treatment from Jay Hunter Morris and Lori Phillips in the Minnesota Concert Opera’s celebration of the Maestro’s 200th birthday.

2.“Silent Night”—The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner by Kevin Puts provided a worthy operatic entry in TV’s revival of live on stage musical performance and its anti-war theme most reflected the true spirit of the holiday season.

1. “Turandot”—Tough call here as the Minnesota Opera’s performance of “Anna Bolena” was nearly as enthralling, but their production of the Giacomo Puccini war horse wins by a whisker for pulling out all the stops of pomp, pageantry, and performance to make a sonic spectacle fitting for the celebration of the Opera’s 50th anniversary.

Some readers may feel other performances from this past year could be added to this yearend review list. No doubt the Minnesota Opera's outdoor performance of Puccini’s “La Boheme” and its “Manon Lescaut” had their moments, but the selections cited above seemed to possess that artistic and emotional “je ne sais quoi” that elevated their performances above the rest. Here’s hoping next year’s operatic season will be as or even more creative and compelling.

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