1. Yannick Nezet-Seguin with the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC, Aug. 8-10. Over three consecutive nights the 37-year old music director-designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra showed what genuine inspiration looks and sounds like. Gone were the off-the-shelf readings of warhorses more typical of an evening at SPAC. There were still plenty of masterpieces, as well as opera excerpts and even new music, and all of it was engaging and lively.
2. Lully’s “Armide” at the Glimmerglass Festival, July 27 (opening night). Dancing and singing were almost equally present in this opulent staging. All of it was resplendent and framed in a set that resembled an illuminated Persian manuscript. It was part of Glimmerglass’ best season in memory, which also included an intimate “Aida,” a fun “The Music Man,” and the wrenching “Lost in the Stars.”
3. John Zorn at EMPAC, April 3. In just one hour onstage Zorn generated enough energy to power all of upstate New York –
or to at least liven up EMPAC. The master of avant garde jazz made his saxophone wail, squeak, buzz, rattle and sometimes even sing. It wasn’t always pretty, sometimes deliberately in your face, but it was a compelling journey to the cutting edge of music.
4. Mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink at the Union College Concert Series, Nov. 12. “Perfection” is a word critics should only be able to use once a year at most. The accolade was well deserved for this song recital. Accompanied by pianist Anthony Spiri, Fink gave a loving embrace to lieder of Mahler, Schumann and Dvorak.
5. Alan Cumming at Club Helsinki, Dec. 2. Talented, flamboyant and shameless, the star of Broadway, television and film proved why he’s got such a devoted fan base. He knows how to entertain and befriend a crowd. There were no retreads of standards. Instead, the songs and banter were timely and fresh and hilarious. A terrific start for the series Helsinki on Broadway.