Heldentenor and iconic director fly the flag at this year’s International Opera Awards.
Three of Australian opera’s highest profile figures, Stuart Skelton, Simone Young and Barrie Kosky, were recognised at last night’s second annual International Opera Awards. Winners in all 22 categories were announced during a star-studded ceremony at London’s Grosvenor Hotel.
Tough international competition proved no match for the three Australians, who took out the awards for Best Male Singer, Best Verdi Anniversary production and Best Director, respectively.
Skelton, last seen as Siegmund in the Melbourne Ring and who recently starred in Peter Grimes at the London Coliseum, was competing against the likes of Peter Mattei and Luca Pisaroni. Commenting on his win in typically modest fashion, Skelton said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and more than a little gobsmacked by this award,” he said. “It probably won’t sink in for a day or two yet! I’m so grateful to the awards committee for this incredible vote of confidence and I shall do my very best to live up to it.”
Australian-born theatre and opera director Barrie Kosky, currently Artistic Director of Berlin’s Komische Oper, also saw off stiff rivalry from directors including Calixto Bieito and Martin Kušej.
The other Aussie victory was Simone Young’s Verdi Trilogy for hamburg Opera (La Battaglia di Legnano, I due Foscari, and I Lombardi) which won the special best Verdi Anniversary category.
Diana Damrau won Female Singer, Oper Zürich was recognised as best Opera Company and the Readers’ Award was given to Joseph Calleja. In an emotinal touch, Gerard Mortier who died a few weeks ago was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement.
After having been dominated by Europe and America last year, the 2014 awards saw Australia well represented in the nominations, but sadly walked away with only two gongs. Australian conductor and Hamburg Opera chief Simone Young was beaten in the Conductor award by Russian maestro Kirill Petrenko. Similarly, up-and-coming soprano Helena Dix and baritone Duncan Rock lost to mezzo soprano Jamie Barton in the Best Young Singer category.
Opera Australia’s Handa Opera on the Harbour was nominated for the Accessibility Award and the Melbourne Ring in the Anniversary Production category, but both events were defeated by their European counterparts: Teatro Sociale di Como and Peter Grimes on the beach (Aldeburgh Festival).
Social media was abuzz after the winning announcements, which are a teriffic coup for the Australian opera community. A clearly overjoyed Skelton gave an emotional acceptance speech and wrote on Twitter: “Thank you @THEOperaS. What an incredible surprise. #OperaAwards Happy, Happy, Happy. #cuePharrell”
The Awards jury was made up of chief music critic for the Sunday Times and regular Opera contributor Hugh Canning; George Loomis who covers opera and classical music for the International Herald Tribune, MusicalAmerica.com, the Financial Times and Opera magazine and chief classical music critic for The Observer, Fiona Maddocks. Other jury members included Sir Peter Jonas, the former Intendant of Bavarian State Opera; Elaine Padmore, Director of Opera at Covent Garden until 2011 and Nicholas Payne, Director of Opera Europa.
The Complete International Opera Award Winners for 2014 are as follows:
Teatro Sociale di Como
Anniversary Production (Britten)
Peter Grimes on the beach (Aldeburgh Festival)
Anniversary Production (Verdi)
Verdi trilogy – La battaglia di Legnano, I due Foscari, I Lombardi (Hamburg Staatsoper)
Parsifal (Vlaamse Opera)
CD (Complete Opera)
Otello (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Resound)
CD (Operatic Recital)
Ann Hallenberg – Hidden Handel (Naïve)
David et Jonathas (Bel Air Classiques)
Norma (Salzburg Festival)
Edgar Foster Daniels
Cristina, regina di Svezia (Wexford Festival)
The Merchant of Venice (Bregenz Festival)