THE BLOG
01/03/2011 12:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

That was the decade that was!

I have had the good fortune to have been in Chicago for the whole of the first decade of the 21st century which ended over the weekend. It has been a period with many richly enjoyable performances - individual evenings giving intense pleasure, and themes which were ongoing which gave great satisfaction as well.

Of course, I derived huge pleasure from my work with Chicago Opera Theater, and I believe that we made a valuable contribution to the city's music loving audience during this past decade. But this is not all about COT. It is about fine music making of the kind that stops thte heart and takes one to a different dimension. So I thought it would be good to think about my own personal highlights. These are not the only things that gave me pleasure - but they spring clearly to mind as having been truly memorable. So they must have been good!

Let's take Lyric first:

1. During my years as director of the Wexford Festival in Ireland 40 plus years aho, I was fortunate to have been able to indulge my passion for bel canto and French repertoire. Here in Chicago Natalie Dessay gave us a Lucia which for me was the best since Joan Sutherland - and Dessay joined with Jonas Kaufman in Manon to give a heart stopping performance that I will never forget.

2. My commitment to the operas of Benjamin Britten has been a multi-year part of my story. Therefore the remarkable David McVicar production of Billy Budd, with Nathan Gunn in the title role, that Lyric gave Chicago in 2001 has to figure in my top ten.

3. Three exceptional productions from Robert Carsen, Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphigénie en Tuaride, together with Poulenc's The Dialogues of the Carmelites, appealed forcefully to those looking for superlative stage direction allied to outstanding casts committed to Carsen's vision. This was a powerful mix.

4. Fidelio with Karita Mattila in the title role and René Pape as Rocco with Christoph von Dohnányi in the pit provided a thrill of an intensity that is often elusive in this difficult Beethoven opera. This was spellbinding.

5. Danielle de Niese's glorious performance of Cleopatra in the McVicar production of Julius Caesar from Glyndebourne gave Lyric audiences who were foolish enough to miss her appearances with COT in 2004 and 2005 the opportunity to be bowled over by this dazzling young singer.

7. My passion for Janáček and all his works was more than satisfied by the wonderful Katya Kabanova with Karita Mattila in the title role in 2009. There was the added bonus of Brandon Jovanovich, the best Boris I have ever seen, and heard. Perfect!

Now for the CSO:

1. Whenever Daniel Barenboim appeared on the stage of Orchestra Hall in the twin roles of piano soloist and conductor something extra special happened. When those evenings included Mozart Piano concertos we were transported to a different dimension. Thank you Daniel for that!

2. Whenever the now octogenarian conductors Bernard Haitink and Pierre Boulez were on the podium we were in for the highest form of music making. Boulez in Bruckner and Haitink in Beethoven - what more can you ask for?

3. Emmanuel Ax reduced me to a soggy mess with the Chopin 2nd concerto in April 2010. He stopped time in the slow movement - what else to say? Well Mark Elder was complicit - this was a remarkable evening of music making with a program which also included Wagner and Mendelssohn.

So there is a very random top ten memorable things. There was so much else - but ten was the limit I set myself.

And of course there was COT - but that is for another time and place!