OPERA NEWS - The Best of 2018
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The Best of 2018

OPERA NEWS critics reviewed 228 CDs and DVDs last year, covering everything from repertory warhorses to quasiclassical indie-rock albums. These are the twenty-five you need to hear.

Best 2018 Royal Opera Lucia hdl 119
Moor, please: Lucia at Covent Garden
© Clive Barda/ArenaPAL


1.  VERDI: Rigoletto
CD (Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra, Orbelian. Delos)
“On Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s final recording, he tackles the most monumental Verdi assignment of all—and magnificently succeeds.” —Fred Cohn 

2.  BERLIOZ: Les Troyens
CD (Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Nelson. Warner Classics)
“Under conductor John Nelson, the work unfolds naturally, inevitably, as if unmediated. His singers are worthy partners.” —Fred Cohn 

3.  DEBUSSY:  Pelléas et Mélisande
CD (London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Rattle. LSO Live)
“Conductor Simon Rattle brings immediacy and dramatic vigor. Gerald Finley, as Golaud, is formidable.” —David J. Baker  

4.  PUCCINI:  Il Tabarro
CD (Orf Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, de Billy. Capriccio)
“Under Bertrand de Billy, this Tabarro is musically shattering. The singing is quite distinguished as well.” —Henson Keys 

5. MONTEVERDI: Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria
DVD (Le Concert d’Astrée, Haïm. Erato)
“I’ve never seen this opera executed with greater dedication. Conductor Emmanuelle Haïm gives the music admirable spirit and forward motion.” —Roger Pines 

6. DONIZETTI:  Lucia di Lammermoor
DVD (Royal Opera Orchestra, Oren. Warner Classics)
“Katie Mitchell’s production is a fitting Lucia di Lammermoor for our time.” —Mark Mandel 

7.  DEL TREDICI:  Child Alice
CD (Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Rose. BMOP/sound)
“A grand symphonic behemoth. This first complete recording revels in the orgiastic overabundance of the Mahlerian sonorities.” —Joe Cadagin

8.   RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Tale of Tsar Saltan
DVD (Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus, Gergiev. Mariinsky)
“Delightful. A superb cast brings humanity and artistry. Valery Gergiev makes the score shimmer.” —Steven Jude Tietjen 

9.  TCHAIKOVSKY: Pique Dame
DVD (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Jansons. C Major)
“All Stefan Herheim’s directorial choices here are bold but also strongly executed. As riveting as it is thought-provoking.” —Steven Jude Tietjen 

10. MUSGRAVE: Mary, Queen of Scots
CD (Virginia Opera Orchestra, Mark. Lyrita)
“A thrilling score with evocative, atmospheric orchestrations.” —Joanne Sydney Lessner 

Handel with Care  
Several men dedicated discs to the Baroque master, including Philippe Jaroussky, Franco Fagioli, Christopher Purves and Anthony Roth Costanzo. 
Best 2018 Steve Jobs hdl 119
Appera: Edward Parks in (R)evolution
© Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera


1.  DU YUN: Angel’s Bone
CD (NOVUS NY, Wachner. Vision into Art Records)
“The real deal. I’ve never experienced a work quite like this.” —Joe Cadagin 

2.  GREGORY SPEARS: Fellow Travelers
CD (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Gibson. Fanfare Cincinnati)
“This opera has gripping historical resonance, as well as fully fleshed characters through whom we explore multiple compelling themes.” —Joshua Rosenblum 

3.  ROBERT ALDRIDGE: Sister Carrie
CD (Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Boggs. Naxos)
“Thoroughly successful. Aldridge is a deft storyteller with a keen sense of the theatrical and a knack for applying the right style to Herschel Garfein’s libretto.” —Joshua Rosenblum 

CD (Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie, Davin. Cyprès)
“Boesmans’s Straussian tonal language is often achingly beautiful. There’s a studied naïveté in his music’s unabashed lyricism.” —Joe Cadagin 

5.  MASON BATES: The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
CD (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, Christie. Pentatone)
“The first documentation of what may well become a staple of twenty-first-century opera. Brilliantly paced, youthfully earnest.” —Daniel J. Kushner

Boxed In  
       It was a great year to reconsider great divas, with big boxed sets dedicated to Callas, Nilsson, Christa Ludwig and Edith Mathis.
Best 2019 Tsar hdl 119
Super Tsar: Saltan ensemble at the Mariinsky
© Valentin Baranovsky/State Academic Mariinsky Theatre


1.  Matthias Goerne: The Wagner Project
CD (Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Harding. Harmonia Mundi)
“Goerne and conductor Daniel Harding offer insights no Wagner-lover will want to miss.” —Fred Cohn

2.Barbara Hannigan: Crazy Girl Crazy
CD (Ludwig Orchestra, Hannigan. Alpha Classics)
“Featuring twentieth-century musical depictions of insanity that capture the fractured, chaotic character of our modern condition.” —Joe Cadagin 

3. Lucile Richardot: Perpetual Night
CD (Ensemble Correspondances, Daucé. Harmoni Mundi)
“Exquisite singing that is most beguiling. One of the best recordings I’ve heard in ages.” —Judith Malafronte 

4. Anita Rachvelishvili: Anita Rachvelishvili
CD (Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Sagripanti. Sony Classical)
“Her voice is thrilling, but she also understands the power of enticing the ear with focused, quiet singing.” —Joanne Sydney Lessner 

5. Pretty Yende: Dreams
CD (Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, Sagripanti. Sony Classical)
“Yende’s brilliant technical singing skills continue to mature; here, she also reaches new depths of interpretation.” —Henson Keys 

6. Natalie Dessay: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
CD (London Studio Orchestra, Legrand. Sony Classical)
“One of the best adult-pop recordings in years, depicting a woman’s life from her last moments inside the womb to her final sigh.” —Eric Myers 

7. Francesca Aspromonte: Prologue
CD (Il Pomo d’Oro, Onofri. Pentatone)
“Marvelous, richly dramatic. Soprano and instrumentalists play off each other with sophisticated musical understanding.” —Judith Malafronte 

8. Joseph Calleja: Verdi
CD (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Tebar. Decca)
“He solidly realizes this music in all its details, with nothing tentative or approximate.” —Fred Cohn 

9. Juan Diego Flórez: Mozart
CD. (La Scintilla, Minasi. Sony Classical)
“A demanding program of Mozart, tackled with Flórez’s usual excellence. His wonted clarity in florid passages is dazzling in this rep.” —Roger Pines 

10. Max Emanuel Cencic: Nicola Porpora Opera Arias
CD. (Armonia Atenea, Petrou. Decca)
“Even if this disc hadn’t included seven world-premiere recordings, it would still merit significant attention, thanks to Cencic’s exceptional vocalism.” —Roger Pines 

Tip of the Hat 
     Props to tenor Kevin Vortmann for carrying Deutsche Grammophon’s revelatory recording of Bernstein’s Mass. 

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