Joy Blue singing "Signore, ascolta"
Here’s a list of the greatest classical music moments in San Diego for 2018. The parameters of this list are my subjective, biased, arbitrary opinions.
Let’s start at the end of the 2017/18 Jacobs Masterworks Season. The concluding concert was a well balanced program which was both entertaining and existentially profound. The entertaining came from Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and the profound was in Brahms’s Symphony No 2. The Brahms second isn’t ever going to be in the discussion for greatest symphony ever written, but the performance turned in by maestro Edo de Waart and the San Diego Symphony made the most of what Brahms had written.
In June the Mainly Mozart Festival had its traditional slate of brilliant orchestral performances at the Balboa Theatre, but hidden in between was a concert of Schubert’s Octet at the Auditorium at the Scripps Research Institute. Playing the octet were musicians from the National Symphony, the LA Phil, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and other venerable ensembles from across the land. Those in attendance were stupefied by the expressive quality of Schubert’s music and the formidable talent performing it.
Moment number three on this arbitrary list is soprano Angel Joy Blue singing “Signore, ascolta” in The San Diego Opera production of Puccini’s Turandot. Having made her Metropolitan Opera debut earlier in the season, Ms. Blue is a rising star in the opera world and her performance of the doomed servant-girl was, in my opinion, the highlight of three mainstage opera production at SDO.
In October Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra joined forces with the San Diego Symphony to perform the gargantuan Shostakovich Symphony No. 7. Gergiev’s idiosyncratic conducting style was probably difficult for the San Diegans to follow but this was a peak experience. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this concert in the list of the decade in 2019.
The final and greatest moment was Greer Grimsley singing the Dutchman’s introductory scene from Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. The occasion was San Diego Opera’s One Amazing Night concert at the Balboa Theatre. I’ve been accused of being a Grimsley fanboy in the past and I’d have to say that’s a true accusation.
Grimsley singing that music in 1300-seat hall was unrelenting and I mean unrelenting. Wagner is unrelenting as a composer and Grimsley shares that quality. The voice kept coming and kept coming and kept coming. When the music concluded my thought was, “What the ‘F’ just happened? Am I still alive or have I been sung to death?”