Looking back on the year's performances I realized it wasn't a good year for Bay Area theater, but it was a great year for LA Opera, which claimed three spots in the top ten. SFJazz is also on a roll, which presented two shows on the list. Overall I saw about the same number of performances as in 2009, and the mix of what ended up in the Top 10 is similar to last year's, though not by design. This year the list is ranked, starting with the best. The links will take you to the original post.
1. The Los Angeles Opera Ring Cycle, directed by Achim Freyer
Visionary and thought provoking, this was Wagner for the 21st Century, and truer to the composer's idea of Gesamkunstwerk than any production I've ever seen or read about.
2. San Francisco Opera's Věc Makropulos
A perfect match of artist and material, with all the supporting pieces perfectly in place made this the most talked about production San Francisco Opera has staged in years, and justifiably so.
3. Lulu at the Met:
I never posted about this, as I saw it in the midst of a whirlwind trip through 5 states in 2 weeks back in May, but this was outstanding on every level. Marlis Petersen as Lulu was sensationally decadent and gave Berg's anti heroine an amazing depth. Anne Sofie von Otter's Countess Geschwitz and James Morris' Dr. Schön were also incredible. The conducting by Fabio Luisi was superb. Everything about this was, in a word, perfect.
4. Esperanza Spalding at Davies Symphony Hall
A spellbinding, phenomenal performance by a young artist who seems destined to have a major impact on the world of music far beyond jazz.
5. John Adams and the San Francisco Symphony
The performances of Harmonielehre and El Niño, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the former and the composer taking the helm for the latter proved three things without a doubt: the San Francisco Symphony is performing at its peak right now and has never sounded better; John Adams is a genius; the relationship between the two, now more than 25 years old, must be considered one of the most fruitful collaborations of our time.
6. LA Opera's Il Postino
No one thought this opera was going to stink more than I did. When the reviews came out unanimously praising it, I had to go see for myself what all the fuss was about. Still skeptical as I took my seat, when it was over I wished I could see it again. Even though it was written for Domingo, this has the goods to stick around for a long time after the legend has called it a day. An accessible, beautiful, contemporary work and a great production.
7. LA Opera's The Stigmatized
LA Opera's Recovered Voices programming has put some truly memorable productions on the stage in the past couple of years and this was one of the best. Sadly, the program has disappeared from next year's schedule. Let's hope this is only temporary, as productions like these of operas that have been neglected for too long here in the U.S. finally see the light of day. NB, this was no novelty, but as deserving to be seen and heard as anything else that appeared on any major house's schedule in the past year. Brubaker and Silja were fantastic- and Conlon was again in peak form.
8. San Francisco Opera's Die Walkure
Perhaps the most aurally satisfying experience of the year, which more than made up for the nonsense and creepy perversity onstage.
9. Lila Downs at Herbst
You should have been there. If you weren't, don't miss her the next time.
10. Antibalas at the Great American Music Hall
This band from New York is an incendiary experience of funk, Afro-funk, and so much more, but none of that really matters. They tore it up in legendary fashion for more than two hours, if for nothing else simply for the sheer joy of doing so, and simply because they could.
Other notable performances:
Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts performed by the San Francisco Ballet
Vasily Petrenko conducting the San Francisco Symphony
The Burroughs and Kookie Show: Late Night in the Interzone
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
With thanks and gratitude to Penelope, the Femme Fatale, Maria Gostrey, Chad Newsome, CC, GG, Madame Merle, the Swedes elder and younger, the Greek, Miss Trixie, Ann Enigma, Axel, Patrick, the OT, A Naturalized Southerner, La Divinavila, Dr. Hank, Craig, Reid and the Minister's Rebellious Daughter for doing it with me.