The Richard Tucker Award has been called “the Heisman Trophy of Opera.” It’s a $30,000 prize recognizing an American singer on the cusp of an international opera career, and on April 16, 2010, James Valenti was named the winner. Why was this year’s award so exciting? James Valenti is an alumnus of the Academy of Vocal Arts, a premier opera training program for young artists located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my home state. These programs are so critical to preparing the next generation of opera performers. Besides grooming and showcasing up and coming talent, they also showcase new works, as in the case of Margaret Garwood’s The Scarlet Letter.
Jake Heggie's Moby Dick/photo by Karen Almond
Moby Dick World Premiere (April 30)
Composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer
Commissioned by the Dallas Opera in partnership with four other companies, Moby Dick premiered at the Winspear Opera House on April 30. Notable for its outstanding staging and performances, it’s also extremely heartening to see opera companies collaborating to bring new opera to the stage.
#Operaplots 2010 (around May 3-7-entries submitted earlier)
Sam Neuman--Grand Prize #Operaplot Winner
Miss Mussel orchestrated an enormous mini-contest celebrating not the masterplot but the microplot–only 140 characters allowed to summarize the plot of an opera. Oh, and the hashtag “#operaplot” had to be included! More than 900 entries representing 200+ different operas were read, sorted, alphabetized, and categorized, etc., at Tweetning-fast speed. Winners were announced the week of May 3. What a fabulous and most entertaining of display ingenius brevity!
Met in the Park 2010
Met in the Park
The Metropolitan Opera performed six concerts in parks in the five boroughs of New York City from July 12-29, 2010. I was sitting in a bar in Soho two weekends ago, when a woman I just met told me how much she enjoyed the program that came to Crotona Park (Bronx) on Thursday, July 15 that featured Monica Yunus, soprano; Matthew Plenk, tenor; Donovan Singletary, bass-baritone; and Jonathan Kelly, pianist.
Rigoletto a Mantova, September 4 & 5
Rigoletto a Mantova
The live simulcast of ‘Rigoletto’ a Mantova was a brave and beautiful project filmed on location in Mantua, lending the entire enterprise the scope and versimilitude of a major motion picture. It featured an all-star cast including Plácido Domingo, Julia Novikova, Vittorio Grigolo, and Ruggero Raimando. The production values, the direction, the musical direction, the soloists, the orchestra, the conductor, the setting, the choral numbers, the cinematography, the costumes, the singing, the singing, the singing were all squisito. With any luck, this production set the stage for more such live simulcasts. Grazie, Plácido.
Opera in the Outfield (September 19) and Aida at the Ballpark (September 25)
Aida in Giants Park, San Francisco
Two major opera houses obtained corporate underwriting to offer free simulcasts of live opera in major ballparks in 2010. “Play Ballo!” was the motto of the Washington National Opera‘s third annual “Opera in the Outfield” event. Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” was broadcast from the Kennedy Center live in Nationals Park, to 11,000 fans. Aida in the Ballpark in the San Francisco Giants home park for approximately 50,000 fans.
Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Random Act of Culture (October 30)
Six hundred singers filled Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia and sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” What a beautiful celebration of spontaneous performance! It’s as much fun to see the crowd’s reaction to the live performance as it is to hear the singers.
I’m certain there were many other wonderful things happening in the world of classical music during 2010. If I’ve not mentioned your favorite event, please mention it in the comments section. And here’s to more inspiring events in 2011.