Flicking back through the calendar, I somehow clocked up 115 concert, opera and ballet reviews this year (sleep is clearly for wimps!), plus attended another 70 events in a non-reviewing capacity. So, which performances are the ones which really stuck in the memory? I can think of one or two turkeys – in the spirit of Christmas it wouldn’t be fair to divulge them here – but have picked out ten plums which have contributed to making it a great year. Not all of them were things I reviewed, but you’ll find links in the title where applicable. Impossible to rank them 1 to 10, so here they are in chronological order as the year unfolded…

January: OneginRoyal Ballet

 Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House framed my year with a pleasing degree of symmetry. While the current revival of Kasper Holten’s opera production is very fine, it was Marianela Núñez dancing Tatiana in John Cranko’s ballet version who thrilled in January. Núñez invests her heart and soul in every part she plays, but this was incredibly moving, the ballerina in floods of tears throughout the curtain calls. She wasn’t the only one.

Thiago Soares (Onegin) and Marianela Núñez (Tatiana) © ROH | Tristram Kenton
Thiago Soares (Onegin) and Marianela Núñez (Tatiana)
© ROH | Tristram Kenton

April: Easter Saturday in Bogota

Bogotá’s four day Mozart festival culminated in a very special experience on Easter Saturday. The Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción de Suba was thus the location for my most memorable musical moment of 2015. And yes, reading the article again, the tears flow once more…

May: Gergiev / London Symphony Orchestra

Valery Gergiev provided plenty of high voltage moments in his final year with the London Symphony Orchestra. Who can forget the incredible BBC Proms concert where he programmed all five Prokofiev piano concertos (featuring three pianists) in the same evening? But tops for me was a whirring, chattering Shostakovich 15 with the LSO, preceded by an exhilarating Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto straight out of the ‘old school’ by Nikolaj Znaider.

Valery Gergiev © Alberto Venzago
Valery Gergiev
© Alberto Venzago

May: Hélène Grimaud

Many events are labelled “immersive” by desperate PR agents. Hélène Grimaud’s acquatic programme at the Barbican couldn’t boast the pools of water she had in New York’s Park Avenue Armory, but her unbroken “Water Reflections” sequence was some of the most entrancing piano playing I heard all year.

May: Mefistofele – Hungarian State Opera

For a devilish time, give me Boito’s Mefistofele over Gounod’s Faust any day! Balázs Kovalik’s production for the Hungarian State Opera was absolutely thrilling in its intensity. With András Palerdi an elegant basso cantante devil and Attila Fekete’s barnstorming tenor as Faust, this performance showcased some great Hungarian voices.

<i>Mefistofele</i> in Budapest © Zsófia Pályi
Mefistofele in Budapest
© Zsófia Pályi

June: Flight – Opera Holland Park

It was a brave move for Opera Holland Park to put on a contemporary opera, but it was totally vindicated with Stephen Barlow’s terrific production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight. The plot mixes the comic, tangled predicaments of the holidaymakers with the poignant plight of the refugee living in the airport. A brilliant ensemble cast made this an unforgettable evening. A production I returned to see again.

George von Bergen (Steward) and Kitty Whately (Stewardess) © Robert Workman
George von Bergen (Steward) and Kitty Whately (Stewardess)
© Robert Workman

July: The Car Man – Matthew Bourne

It’s been a year for catching up with Matthew Bourne’s shows at Sadler’s Wells. The gothic fantasy of Sleeping Beauty is superb, but it was his reimagining of Carmen as something akin to The Postman Always Rings Twice which wowed me back in August: sultry, dangerous, gripping. The clarity of Bourne’s storytelling in The Car Man is something several opera directors would do well to study… no director’s programme note required.

August: Shostakovich Quartets – Carducci Quartet

If seven hours on a barely cushioned bench at The Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse doesn’t sound your idea of fun, all discomfort was dispelled by an incredible journey through all fifteen Shostakovich string quartets performed by the indefatigable Carducci String Quartet. A marathon day, on the 40th anniversary of the composer’s death, but an incredibly rewarding experience.

October: Guglielmo Ratcliff – Wexford Festival Opera

Productions of Mascagni’s Guglielmo Ratcliff are few and far between, notably because the title role is an absolute killer for the tenor. Step forward Sicilian tenor Angelo Villari, crazy enough to tackle Ratcliff for Wexford Festival Opera in a triumphant performance. Fabio Ceresa’s classy production played up the gothic plot gloriously. I dare any London company to take it on!

Angelo Villari (Guglielmo Ratcliff) © Clive Barda
Angelo Villari (Guglielmo Ratcliff)
© Clive Barda

December: Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci – The Royal Opera

Damiano Michieletto’s new production of opera’s terrible twins hit verismo-tastic heights at The Royal Opera. The interweaving of characters from one plot into the other opera made for a pair of poignant intermezzi. But what made the evening for me – and made me return for more – was Elena Zilio’s heartrending Mamma Lucia, acting everyone else off the stage.

Elena Zilio (Mamma Lucia) and Aleksanders Antonenko (Turiddu) © ROH | Catherine Ashmore
Elena Zilio (Mamma Lucia) and Aleksanders Antonenko (Turiddu)
© ROH | Catherine Ashmore