If The Magic Flute was a Spielberg/Zemeckis adventure movie in close-quartered song, then the English National Opera Dream of Gerontius (with added BBC Singers) at the Festival Hall was... well, I don't know. Derek Jarman? An earnest, barely-staged production by the lighting designer Lucy Carter promised the best of both available worlds: an opera company given the opportunity to perform in concert, whilst bringing that staging sensibility to a concert work with all the inherent drama of Verdi's Requiem (and of course, quite a bit of the music of Wagner's Parsifal). Simone Young steered a steady course down the centre of the available melodrama. A unique event but with plenty of potential for revisiting (perhaps with other concert works), we hope.
Otello at Covent Garden, the first in a quick succession of Shakespearean operas to be seen. The Royal Opera is a company that knows how Verdi goes, especially under the musical direction of Sir Antonio Pappano. It might be fair to say that the show had been constructed around the talented principal tenor Jonas Kaufmann; what I was perhaps least expecting was that his command of the role allowed him to act with great detail and really essay the part. I found I was less interested in the thrill of a challenging romantic role than I was with the choices he took with the character, afforded to him by never having to fight the music.
Glyndebourne's new Hamlet also put a tenor through his paces. Brett Dean's operatic version of one of Shakespeare's most literary plays also has substantial roles for many others and the cast was a pretty fair cross-section of some of the best talent in the UK (and the US - super idea casting Rodney Gilfry as Claudius). Allan Clayton's performance in the title role was phenomenal. I saw it in a cinema relay in London.
Merchant of Venice, a production staged by WNO (also directed by Keith Warner) which came to Covent Garden at the tail end of the season. it was interesting to see the audience for this show, as very different, largely younger clientele - were they expecting Pyotr Tchiakovsky only to leave - as many did - at the interval of this recently dusted-off piece by André Tchaikowski? They shouldn't have gone, as this proved itself to be a fine piece worth an outing, perpetually alert to the measure & music of Shakespeare's text.
Impropera in a series of sketches rounded off with a full length confection based on audience suggestion (a sort of contemporary Fledermaus sequel). In these very much postmodern times, it takes something to be funny, as they were.
Finally, there was a concert performance of Mussorgsky's Khovanschina at the Proms. This is an epic opera and lived principally through the rendition of the score by the BBC Symphony under Semyon Bychkov and some uniformly remarkable singing from a largely Russian cast - though the handful of BBC Singers men who came down to the front of the stage must also be applauded for performing without copies in convincing vernacular.