Review of 2012: Classical
Northern Ireland Opera toured with the unsettling adaptation of the Henry James ghost story, and Simon Rattle thrilled us again
Sunday 30 December 2012
Let's start with a segue – that pin-drop moment at the BBC Proms when the last filaments of Ligeti's Atmosphères dissolved into six bars of silence, and those became a prelude to the Prelude of Wagner's Lohengrin. Opening the year's review with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker is something of a tradition here, but this was a season to savour.
From Sir John Eliot Gardiner's revelatory period-instruments reading of Pelléas et Mélisande to Christine Schäfer's enigmatic Pierrot Lunaire, trombonist Byron Fulcher's feisty re-creation of Berio's Sequenza V, Harry Bickett and the English Concert's faultlessly paced B Minor Mass, Paul Curran's witty Nixon in China with the BBC SO, and Daniel Barenboim's monumental Beethoven cycle with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Proms rivalled the Olympics in ambition. Gold for London? Yes. But Birmingham Opera Company's immersive production of Stockhausen's Mittwoch aus Licht in a former factory in Digbeth was the most flamboyant event of the summer.
Mao in Nixon, Achilles in Britten Sinfonia's King Priam and a deliciously louche Basilio in Michael Grandage's Le Nozze di Figaro for Glyndebourne, tenor Alan Oke excelled. Conductor of the same Figaro, Robin Ticciati delivered a Siegfried Idyll of delectable transparency with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, while Leonidas Kavakos's Berg and Christian Tetzlaff's Szymanowski confirmed a golden age for violinists. Cellist Tim Gill and pianist John Constable mesmerised in Messaien's Louange à l'Eternité de Jésus. Antonio Pappano and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House made the marathon revival of Keith Warner's Ring Cycle a pleasure. Yannick Nezet-Séguin's conducting of Rusalka was divine, Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito's production less so. Opera North had a sensation in the form of Annemarie Kremer, fearless leading lady in Christopher Alden's production of Norma, while all eyes were on Anna Caterina Antonacci's Cassandra in David McVicar's otherwise blurry Les Troyens.
Never mind the venue
Young talent emerged in pubs, clubs and car parks. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Oliver John Ruthven and the continuo section of Musica Poetica London outclassed the singers in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Laura Parfitt was a sassy Minnie as Puccini's West End Girl at the King's Head, while Igor Toronyi-Lalic and friends played Moondog, Howard Skempton and James Tenney in a south-London multi-storey, while Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest threw 40 plates and two megaphones at Wilde's masterpiece of triviality.
Northern Ireland Opera took Oliver Mears's unsettling production of The Turn of the Screw on tour, with Miles styled after the young Benjamin Britten. Anneliese Miskimmon's blackly comic Falstaff for Opera Holland Park was one summer highlight, Antony McDonald's dreamlike Queen of Spades for Grange Park Opera another. Jesus Leon's embittered Don Ottavio became the focus of Daniel Slater's topsy-turvy Don Giovanni at Garsington.
Wexford Festival honoured Delius with Stephen Medcalf's production of A Village Romeo and Juliet and Iford uncovered the terrible beauty of Handel's Susanna. In Aldeburgh and the Barbican, Claire Booth wore a wolf suit and Lucy Schaufer became a Sealyham terrier in Netia Jones's Oliver Knussen double bill. In Covent Garden, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and a horse called Rupert stole Robert Carsen's Falstaff.
For excessive mutilation of animals, Michael Keegan Dolan's production of Julius Caesar. For misogyny and necrophilia, Frederick Wake Walker's Bow Down. For whimsy and hubris, Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach. For ignorance of kebab vans and urban dance, Judith Weir's Miss Fortune. For totally missing the point, Anna Meredith's body-popping National Youth Orchestra commission, Hands Free.
Composers Hans Werner Henze, Elliott Carter, Jonathan Harvey and Richard Rodney Bennett, pianist Charles Rosen, beloved baritone Robert Poulton and Lisa Della Casa, the sweetest soprano, and Russian star Galina Vishnevskaya.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
Game of Thrones season 5: Episode 4 preview clip presents the Sand Snakes as HBO reveals new titles and synopses
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia