So that's it, folks, for an epic year of opera-going. I've been to 42 operas (44 if you count Il Trittico as three), all but five of them in London, and looking through the list makes me realise what a fabulous variety of opera we have access to in London.
I finished 2010 at the large scale end of things with a Royal Opera Tannhäuser: my last opera of 2011 was at the other end of the scale with Open Door's tiny production of Hansel and Gretel in a pub theatre. The chamber opera scene is vibrant in London right now: I've been to five different companies (and there are several more that I didn't get to) and seen chamber versions of works as diverse as Verdi's Il Trovatore, Offenbach's La Belle Hélène (artfully renamed Troy Boy and even a real rarity in the shape of Vaughan Williams's Hugh the Drover, most done to a very high standard.
The standards are also high in our student productions, which yielded two of the most memorable evenings of the year in the shape of the Royal Academy's Threepenny Opera and the Guildhall's rendering of Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites - who would have thought that a plot line that basically goes "nuns get worried" could yield such drama?
The big houses, ENO and the Royal Opera, gave us their usual mix of standard repertoire leavened with small amounts of new or obscure work, within their very different artistic styles. The new works were fascinating: I gave five stars to the ROH's controversial Anna Nicole, which several critics considered sensationalist rubbish, while ENO's The Passenger provided one of the biggest wow moments of the year, when the violinist Tadek plays Bach's D minor Chaconne as an emblem of the greatness of German culture, to be overwhelmed by Weinberg's vivid orchestral portrayal of the crude ugliness of Nazism. Older but obscure repertoire yielded some delights as well. The ROH version of Rimsky's The Tsar's Bride opened a window into an operatic style that we don't often hear, as well as providing another of those wow moments in the shape of Ekaterina Gubanova's marvellous unaccompanied lament. ENO's Young Vic rendering of Monteverdi's Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria was musically wonderful if baffling on stage.
But you can't write off the standard repertoire as dull. The Royal Opera produced outstanding Puccini in the shape of Il Trittico and marvellous fairy-tale in Laurent Pelly's Cendrillon, plus some quite amazing pieces of individual singing: ones that particularly stick in my mind are René Pape as Mephistopheles in Faust and Lyudmila Monastyrska in Aida, together with a welcome return to form by Rolando Villazón in Werther. At ENO I was bowled over by Brindley Sheratt's rendition of Prince Gremin's aria in Eugene Onegin and by Gwyn Hughes Jones's Cavadadossi in Catherine Malfitano's Tosca, which also probably wins the prize for the most consistently excellent production.
My biggest disappointments and biggest surprise of the year came outside London. Vienna State Opera's Salome was utterly spoilt by atrocious balance between orchestra and singers, and Callixto Bieito's Entführung in Berlin left me utterly baffled as to why anyone wishing to make a sexploitation statement would start with a Mozart light opera. But my most memorable operatic evening of 2011 was Médée at La Monnaie in Brussels, where Christophe Rousset's Les Talens Lyriques blew me away with their performance of Cherubini's music.
As well as Rousset, I've seen some fantastic conductors over the year - Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano to name just a few, and even the rarely spotted Richard Bonynge at Opera Holland Park. The London opera scene is in rude health, and it's been a true privilege to get to all that opera this year.
Can 2012 beat it? I can't wait to find out...
Happy New Year to all.
30th December 2011