This exercise would at least verge upon the pointless without my readers. Thank you so much for your eager attention over the past year. Herewith a list of the ten pieces that most frequently caught your attention, the most viewed first and so on downward. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the anniversary year and the general level of interest shown by his followers, Wagner looms large:
1. R.I.P. Sir Colin Davis. The passing of one of the greatest English conductors of any age. It is a bleak Mozartian world without Sir Colin, but what memories we have. The first time I heard him conduct Così fan tutte was the first time I had truly heard what depth Mozart in the opera house might actually attain.
2. Tannhäuser at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. I was a little surprised to see this commentary (not a review, since I, like most people who wrote about it, never saw the performance) receive so many viewings; but then the strange media frenzy elicited by what sounded as if it were a far from atypical production was always rather mystifying. The loud-mouthed quasi-fascism of a few self-proclaimed ‘protectors’ of Wagner, and opera in general, managed to silence a Wagner production for all of the wrong reasons.
3. R.I.P. Patrice Chéreau. Though the great director’s achievements were far from confined to opera – indeed, he directed opera relatively rarely – he will always retain a special place in our hearts for the legendary ‘Centenary Ring’. Not only Wagner, but opera staging in general, would never be the same again.
4. Ariadne auf Naxos from Glyndebourne. The first night of the Sussex house’s season, in what at best might be described as a ‘controversial’ new production by Katharina Thoma. Not, alas, Glyndebourne’s finest hour.
5. Götterdämmerung at the Proms. The climax of Daniel Barenboim’s Proms Ring. Superlative playing, superlative singing (many English listeners hearing Andreas Schager’s Siegfried for the first time), and of course superlative conducting. A worthy successor to Barenboim’s 2012 Beethoven.
6. Chelsea Opera Group’s concert performance of Die Feen. It was not the greatest of orchestral performances; it would certainly have benefited from more rehearsals and a more sympathetic conductor. But there was some good singing and, whatever my considerable qualms, this performance undoubtedly introduced a good number of people to Wagner’s wonderful first opera. I was fortunate enough to hear and to see it not long afterwards in a wonderful production by Oper Leipzig.
7. Redemption to the Redeemer! Some thoughts on Parsifal, religion, and what its enigmatic final line might mean. Originally published as an essay for the Royal Opera House’s new production of the work.
8. Die Walküre at the Proms. The second instalment of Barenboim’s aforementioned Ring. The point at which we truly realised that this was as close as we should ever come to hearing Furtwängler. Blessed also by the finest performance I have ever heard from Bryn Terfel.
9. Stefan Herheim’s new Meistersinger. Staged at the Salzburg Festival, this was undoubtedly the greatest production of the work I have seen. Musical performances were not always at that exalted level, though Michael Volle’s Hans Sachs certainly was, but Herheim’s typically thoughtful and musical staging will linger long in the memory.
10. The Royal Opera’s unfortunate new Parsifal. Stephen Langridge’s staging emerged bafflingly as a cross between Jim’ll Fix It and Sex Box. There was wonderful singing, however, from René Pape and Gerald Finley: the first time I have heard the latter in Wagner.