Well, writing a regular blog was one 2012 resolution that fell short of intentions. It was, in all, a busy year, plenty to report on the opera front in my weekly column in the Sunday Express (www.express.co.uk). Just picking out a few highlights – Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s performance at the Barbican of Gerald Barry’s wacky The Importance of Being Earnest, based on Oscar Wilde’s play, with a score that included smashed plates, megaphones, marching boots, a Lady Bracknell in drag, and the stratospheric Barbara Hannigan as Cecily Cardew. Hannigan appears next March in the UK premiere of the rather less hilarious Written on Skin by George Benjamin at the Royal Opera.
Highpoint at the Royal Opera was the five and a half hour staging of Berlioz’s The Trojans, directed by David McVicar, sets by Es Devlin, and lighting by Wolfgang Gobbel. An eye-dazzling spectacle, with the Trojan Horse as a huge nodding beast constructed of iron cannons and weaponry, and flame-throwing nostrils. English National Opera redeemed itself, after its dismal Don Giovanni, with Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The luminous score together with the trenchant prose of John Bunyan lent an evangelical fervour to the evening, lightened by the jolly cross-dressers and strippers in the Vanity Fair scene.
Glyndebourne’s production of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges, directed by Laurent Pelly, was magical. And a visit to the 61st Wexford Festival Opera was a joy, both in and out of the opera house. It lived up to its reputation for reviving neglected works, (Cilea’s L’Arlesiana; Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet; Chabrier’s Le Roi Malgre Lui), and its hospitality in the pubs where singers would join in the “craic” after the show. Wexford’s programme for 2013 has a line-up of rare gems by Massenet, Nino Rota and Jacopo Foroni. Two great advantages over my previous visit are: the splendid new opera house, opened in 2008, and the relatively easy way of getting to Wexford via Air Lingus’s new flight to Waterford. Details at wexfordopera.com