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Best classical and opera of 2015: Five top performances and one turkey from Saul at Glyndebourne to Poliuto

Highlights of the year, plus one that didn't live up to the hype

Michael Church
Tuesday 15 December 2015 18:23 GMT
John Graham-Hall as the Witch of Endor in 'Saul' at Glyndebourne
John Graham-Hall as the Witch of Endor in 'Saul' at Glyndebourne (Bill Cooper)

The Indian Queen, Coliseum

With this take on Purcell's unfinished opera, wild-boy Peter Sellars achieved something extraordinary. Reworked round a new text by the Nicaraguan novelist Rosario Aguilar, the music became the soundtrack for the colonial encounter between Europeans and Mayans; designs and choreography were sublime.

Die Meistersinger, Coliseum

Ravishingly lit on the simplest of sets, Richard Jones's production was at once Nuremberg 1868 and a timeless reflection of German culture, with little swoops into surrealism. A world-class ensemble show, and the most convincing realisation I've ever seen of Wagner's affirmation of the power of love and creativity.

Saul, Glyndebourne

Barrie Kosky's staging of Handel's oratorio was both witty and beautiful. No praise too high for the singing of Iestyn Davies, Paul Appleby and Christopher Purves; of Lucy Crowe and Sophie Bevan as Merab and Michal, respectively; and of Benjamin Hulett as a cross between a clown and a soothsayer.

Andras Schiff, BBC Proms

This performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations was an extraordinary event, not least in that the Royal Albert Hall was packed out for a late-night piano recital. But Schiff is the undisputed master of this labyrinthine work, and he managed to imbue each variation with drama, while celebrating the architecture of the whole.

Orpheus, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The candle-lit intimacy of this exquisitely reconstructed 17th-century theatre perfectly suited Keith Warner's brilliant take on Luigi Rossi's rarely performed tragicomedy. Wonderful singing by Siobhan Stagg, Caitlin Hulcup, Sky Ingram, Keri Fuge and Mark Milhofer; superb playing under Christian Curnyn.

Turkey of the Year

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

This staging of Donizetti's rarely performed tragedy had fabulous singing, but Mariame Clément's direction was woefully cack-handed. She wanted us to think of Sarajevo, but all we could think of was Gilbert and Sullivan, and at a dismally parish-hall level.

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