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Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.
(Without the freedom to criticize, there is no true praise.)

Le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

For the second year in a row, I present the Figaro Awards. These include all operas seen at the San Francisco Opera in 2012, both in the summer (Nixon in China, The Magic Flute) and in the fall (Rigoletto, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Moby-Dick, Lohengrin, and Tosca).

Scarpia and the Ensemble of Tosca. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Scarpia and the Chorus of Tosca. Photo by Cory Weaver.

2012 Figaro Awards

Production I would most readily see again: Tosca, for the operatic quality, the three leads, the detailed sets, and the gorgeous costumes.

Opera I would most readily see again: Rigoletto, for sheer musicality. I would love to see this again with a better set, staging, and costumes.

Outstanding performance (male): Morgan Smith as Starbuck in Moby-Dick (runner-up: Brandon Jovanovich as Lohengrin in Lohengrin)

Outstanding performance (female): Nicole Cabell as Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi (runners-up: Hye Jung Lee as Madame Mao in Nixon in China and Aleksandra Kurzak as Gilda in Rigoletto)

Outstanding performance (trouser): Joyce DiDonato as Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Eric Owens as Capellio and Joyce DiDonato as Romeo. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Joyce DiDonato as Romeo, with Eric Owens. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Outstanding performance (pegleg): Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Outstanding performance (chorus): “Lost in the heart of the sea” from Moby-Dick

Outstanding performance (orchestra): The woodwinds and brass in Lohengrin

Outstanding performance (high F): Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night singing “Der Hölle Rache” from The Magic Flute

Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute

Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Adler Fellow of the season: Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi in Tosca

Outstanding performance (meeting cute): Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Nadine Sierra as Papagena in The Magic Flute

Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Nadine Sierra as Papagena in The Magic Flute

Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Nadine Sierra as Papagena in The Magic Flute. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Best opening: Nixon in China, with the projections of Air Force One flying through the clouds and the chorus singing the praises of the glorious revolution in “Soldiers of heaven hold the sky” and “The people are the heroes now.”

Best production design: Moby-Dick. Sets: Robert Brill. Lighting: Gavan Swift. Projections: Elaine J. McCarthy and Shawn E. Boyle.

The whale boats set out in Moby-Dick. Photo by Cory Weaver.

The whale boats set out in Moby-Dick. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Best costumes: Thierry Bosquet for Tosca

Scarpia and Tosca in Tosca. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Scarpia and Tosca in Tosca. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Most shocking death scene: Floria Tosca in Tosca

Most shocking (and yet welcome) death scene: Scarpia in Tosca

Costumes most likely to trigger a prom flashback: I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Set most likely to trigger my vertigo: The Magic Flute

The vertiginous projections in The Magic Flute.  Photo by Cory Weaver.

The vertiginous projections in The Magic Flute. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Best use of red (and Reds): Nixon in China

Worst use of a sink: I Capuleti e i Montecchi

One of many odd staging choices for I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Photo by Cory Weaver.

One of many odd staging choices for I Capuleti. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Most bizarre staging: I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Most lacking in whales: Moby-Dick

Biggest waste of a library: Lohengrin

The Big Sleep plotting award (tie): Nixon in China and Rigoletto

Charlotte Perkins Gilman “Yellow Wallpaper” award: Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Alanis Morissette award for most irony: The playboy Duke of Mantua singing “La donna è mobile” (“Woman is Fickle”) in Rigoletto

Bart Simpson award for creepiest clown (tie): Rigoletto in Rigoletto and Henry Kissinger in Nixon in China

Finally, a shout-out to La Maratonista, for occasionally pausing long enough to be my partner in all things opera for three years running (see what I did there?). All in all, it was a fabulous season, with extraordinary singing, and I’m looking forward to a great 2013, starting with Così fan tutte and Les Contes d’Hoffmann in the summer, and hopefully continuing with Mefistofele, Falstaff, and Il barbiere di Siviglia (among others) in the fall.

For my individual write-ups of these operas, see Peking Dick, Put the Blame on Mame, Bellini Does Disco, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Black Swan Down, and Jump For My Love. Note: I did not write up The Magic Flute since I only saw it in final dress.

Feel free to comment or argue for your favorites below.

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