The season is over. It was also my first year of regular and frequent operagoing. As good an excuse as any for a bit of list making (I like lists). These, then, were a few of my favourite things...
Sopranos and mezzos
Antoinette Halloran. After a sort of nondescript Johanna in Sweeney Todd, Antoinette turned in a breathtaking performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire and made a fan of me. As an added bonus, she singlehandedly transformed The Gondoliers into something I wanted to hear.
Pamela Helen Stephen. A bit of a revelation as Nicklausse in Les contes d'Hoffmann. I disagree with the redoubtable Dr Andrew Byrne's slightly snide comments, I think she utterly deserved her star turn and I'd happily listen to her sing as many arias as could be discovered.
Rachelle Durkin. I've written excessively about Rachelle and will try to restrain myself here. I adore her. I thought her Alcina was just insanely fantastic. I'm trying not to think about the fact that she's about to sing it again in Melbourne and that I can't possibly be there. I saw her four times and would happily see her four more. Bring on Orlando.
Milijana Nikolic. She was impressive in her short roles in Il Trittico and Hoffmann but it was as Venus in Tannhäuser that she really came into her own, resplendent and electrifying.
But the soprano of the year has got to be Cheryl Barker. A sublime Rusalka, and then radiant in all three Trittico roles. Not to mention her wonderful performance in Don John of Austria with the Sydney Symphony and her Jenufa last year, which was the first opera I saw after moving here. A very special artist. We're privileged to have her here so frequently; and next season there are not one, but three fabulous Cheryl vehicles to look forward to. I can't wait.
Tenors and baritones
José Carbo. In his element as both Figaro (in Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and the Count Almaviva (in Le nozze di Figaro). A voice as suave and charming as his stage presence. He's one of those singers I'm always pleased to see and hear.
Joshua Bloom. Absolutely staggering. He was an excellent Figaro and absolutely glorious in the St Matthew Passion with the Sydney Philhamonia Choirs. His career is growing more glittery by the minute so evidently I'm not the only one terribly impressed by him.
Stuart Skelton. Stuart was utterly perfect as Mitch in Streetcar. He sang gorgeously and was almost worryingly convincing.
But my favourite of favourites? Aldo di Toro of course. Twice I saw him sing Alfredo, twice I saw Traviata through Alfredo's eyes and not Violetta's. Rarely have I seen a singer with a more immediately engaging and sympathetic presence on stage and that liquid amber voice and golden age technique are knee weakening.
The old fashioned but still opulent La traviata, proof that conventional doesn't necessarily mean boring.
Half of Rusalka. I loved the stark, icy, abstract sets. I didn't like all the mad scientist business with Jezibaba. But overall, one of the most visually appealing shows all year.
Sweeney Todd. Scary and funny and compelling. Is it an opera? I tend to say no. But I enjoyed myself a lot.
For all its flaws and mirrors, Alcina. It was fantastical and weird, which is how Alcina ought to be. It gave Rachelle ample space to terrify and bewitch, and I liked the golden light at the end, even if it did leave me temporarily blind.
A Streetcar Named Desire. Whatever you make of the music, this was some seriously impressive theatre. The costumes were mostly good (though Blanche could have been treated a bit better) and the set was ingenious and evocative. All I want to know is — how did Blanche's trunk get to the house? She doesn't bring it with her when she got off the streetcar at Elysian Fields, but it's there by the next morning. Nitpicking of course. This was brilliant.
Moments of brilliance and beauty
Kanen Breen's contortive comic antics in both Sweeney Todd and Hoffmann. I'm not going to claim that he has the world's most wonderful voice but he's clearly a genius of physical and verbal comedy.
Yvonne Kenny's "Soft people have got to shimmer and glow" in A Streetcar Named Desire. She did shimmer and glow. She was heartbreaking and lovely.
I loved everything about Rachelle Durkin's Alcina, but especially her "Ombre pallide", when the look in her eyes was so manic I wouldn't have been surprised if the dark forces she was summoning had actually arrived in the theatre.
A revelation — Amelia Farrugia's Proch Variations in Rosina's singing lesson. Polished, pinpoint coloratura. Give her more bel canto to work with.
The offstage Pilgrim's Chorus in Tannhäuser, which came from the outside the back doors of the theatre. Unearthly, eerie and transcendently beautiful.
What can I pick for Cheryl Barker? Her ability to remain mesmerising and magnetic in Rusalka even while mute. Her real tears at the end of Suor Angelica. And the richness of expression with which she imbued Giorgetta's tiniest phrases in Il Tabarro — how can a simple "Ma che credi?" sound so wonderful?
And the list goes on... these are a few, but every single opera this season (even the ones I've been less than kind to) has had at least one moment which made me think: this is why I'm so head over heels in love with opera. Coming next, a few scattered thoughts (and probably more lists) on next year's season.