Opera Australia and Sydney Theatre Company return laden with honours from the 2013 awards ceremony.

Opera Australia’s new production of Richard Strauss’s Salome and the Sydney Theatre Company’s landmark adaptation of Kate Genville’s The Secret River were the big winners at the 13th annual Helpmann Awards held at the Sydney Opera House last night. There was a tie for most awarded musical with the inventive Legally Blonde taking out most of the acting and musical honours while the dramatically underwhelming King Kong won in most of the technical categories.

The glittering showbiz ceremony was co-hosted by Eddie Perfect and Christie Whelan-Browne and the gongs were dished out by a host of celebrity presenters including Baz Lurhmann and Sharon Millerchip.

In classical music, Salome won Best Opera and Best Performer awards for Cheryl Barker (Salome), John Wegner (Jokanaan) and Jacqueline Dark (Herodias). Simone Young's concert performance of Wagner's Das Rheingold at QPAC also won two awards.

As usual the awards attracted their fair share of criticism: Entries are self-nominated with organisations paying $50 per nomination; the shortlist is decided by representatives of the same organisations that have paid to get their candidates nominated; voters are only required to have seen two of the nominations and few of them ever travel interstate etc, etc. And rules appear to be bent where big money is concerned (King Kong's opening missed the deadline by two weeks).

Responding to attacks on the judging process Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson said that competition had been fierce and she was not concerned that some companies went home empty-handed while others dominated. "Everyone gets sensitive about which state and which company wins, but it's swings and roundabouts," she said. "Some years one company cleans up and the next it could be completely different."

The full list of awards were as follows:

Best Regional Touring Production

CIRCA (Toured by Performing Lines for Road Work)

Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera

José Carbó (Die Tote Stadt, Opera Australia)

Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera

Jacqueline Dark (Salome, Opera Australia)

Best Chamber & / or Instrumental Ensemble Concert

Jordi Savall & Andrew Lawrence King (Melbourne Recital Centre)

Best Scenic Design

Peter England (King Kong)

Best Costume Design

Roger Kirk (King Kong)

Best Presentation for Children

School Dance (Windmill Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Individual Classical Music Performance

Simone Young Conducting The Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Das Rheingold (concert performance) and Mahler Symphony No 2, Queensland Performing Arts Centre & Events Queensland)

Best Choreography in a Musical

Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde The Musical)

Best Lighting Design

Peter Mumford (King Kong)

Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

Antony Hamilton (Black Project 1 & 2, Arts House and Antony Hamilton Projects)

Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production

S (Circa)

Best Sound Design

Peter Hylenski (King Kong)

Best Special Event

White Night Melbourne (Victorian Major Events Company on behalf of the State Government of Victoria)

Best Music Direction

Iain Grandage (The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company)

Best International Contemporary Concert

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Wrecking Ball 2013

Best Cabaret Performer

Robyn Archer

Best Direction of an Opera

Alex Ollé (Un Ballo in Maschera, Opera Australia)

Best Direction of a Play

Neil Armfield (The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Direction of a Musical

Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde The Musical)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Russell Dykstra (The Addams Family)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Helen Dallimore (Legally Blonde The Musical)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play

Colin Moody (The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play

Amber McMahon (Windmill Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Australian Contemporary Concert

Neil Finn & Paul Kelly Live

Best Original Score

Iain Grandage (The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Contemporary Music Festival

The 24th Annual Bluesfest Byron Bay

Best New Australian Work

Kate Grenville, adapted for the stage by Andrew Bovell (The Secret River, Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Comedy Performer

Julia Morris (Julia Morris – No Judgement, Fox in the Snow)

Outstanding Theatrical Achievement

Awarded to King Kong’s creators and puppeteers for the design, creation and operation of King Kong, The Creature

Best Male Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

Alisdair Macindoe (Dual)

Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

Deborah Brown (TERRAIN, Bangarra Dance Theatre)

Best Ballet or Dance Work

TERRAIN (Bangarra Dance Theatre)

Best Male Performer in an Opera

John Wegner (Salome, Opera Australia)

Best Female Performer in an Opera

Cheryl Barker (Salome, Opera Australia)

Best Symphony Orchestra Concert

Das Rheingold (concert performance), The Hamburg State Opera with The Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Queensland Performing Arts Centre & Events Queensland)

Best Male Actor in a Musical

Geoffrey Rush (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum)

Best Female Actor in a Musical

Lucy Durack (Legally Blonde The Musical)

Best Male Actor in a Play

Colin Friels (Death of a Salesman, Company B)

Best Female Actor in a Play

Alison Bell (Hedda Gabler, State Theatre Company of South Australia)

Best Opera

Salome (Opera Australia)

Best Play

The Secret River (Sydney Theatre Company)

Best Musical

Legally Blonde The Musical