Emma Matthews, the Berlin Phil and Cate Blanchett take out top honours.

Last night’s glitzy ceremony for Australia’s prestigious arts and theatre awards was marked by a strong focus on Sydney events following a Melbourne-centric season in 2010.

The Sydney Opera House, host to the annual Helpmann presentation, dominated proceedings with nine nominations and four wins.

Opera Australia’s Partenope and La Fanciulla del West were up against smaller-scale, innovative productions: Piazzolla’s tango opera María de Buenos Aires (State Opera of South Australia) and The Threepenny Opera (Malthouse Theatre/Victorian Opera). Christopher Alden’s Man Ray-inspired staging of Handel’s Partenope won Best Opera, with perennial Helpmann favourite Emma Matthews crowned Best Female Performer in an Opera for her regal portrayal of the title role.

Widely considered the world’s greatest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic received two gongs for its highly anticipated Australian debut under Sir Simon Rattle: Best Individual Classical Performance and Best Symphony Orchestra Concert. Best Instrumental Ensemble Concert went to American pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s all-Chopin program, part of the Sydney Symphony International Pianists recital series. Ohlsson was the first American to scoop the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition prize in Warsaw, 1970.

Controversially, and despite eight nominations, the new Australian musical Doctor Zhivago starring Anthony Warlow was snubbed in favour of Mary Poppins, which boasts eight awards including Best Musical, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies with three production credits under its belt. Music theatre veterans Nancye Hayes, Toni Lamond and Jill Perryman were honoured with the JC Williamson Award for their lifetime contribution to the arts. It’s auspicious timing for Hayes, who will return to the stage as Mrs Hannigan in Annie this year.

Two stars of the silver screen picked up awards for their theatre appearances this year. Cate Blanchett received Best Actress in a Play for the Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya, a welcome accolade after having missed out for her acclaimed role in last year’s $2.6m production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

We have seen applauded him on the international awards circuit for he King’s Speech, and Geoffrey Rush was gracious as ever when he accepted Best Actor in a Play for a revival of Diary of a Madman. Director Neil Armfield was received the nod as Best Director in a Play for the same work, a fitting conclusion to his tenure as artistic director of Belvoir St Theatre.

NSW Minister of the Arts George Souris announced the Government would support the Helpmanns for a further three years at the Opera House.

2011 Helpmann Awards

Opera & Classical

Best Opera

Partenope (Opera Australia)

Best Direction of an Opera

Nigel Jamieson La Fanciulla del West (Opera Australia)

Best Male Performer in an Opera

John Wegner La Fanciulla del West Opera Australia

Best Female Performer in an Opera

Emma Matthews Partenope (Opera Australia)

Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera

Kanen Breen Partenope  (Opera Australia)

Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera

Elizabeth Campbell Aida (State Opera of South Australia)

Best Individual Classical Performance

Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Sydney Opera House and the Perth Concert Hall

Best Chamber/Instrumental Ensemble Concert

Garrick Ohlsson in recital as part of the Sydney Symphony International Pianists in Recital Series

Best Symphony Orchestra Concert

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Sydney Opera House and the Perth Concert Hall

 

Music Theatre

Best Musical

Mary Poppins 

Best Direction of a Musical

Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne Mary Poppins

Best Male Actor in a Musical 

Matt Lee Mary Poppins

Best Female Actor in a Musical

Verity Hunt-Ballard Mary Poppins

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Philip Quast Mary Poppins

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Esther Hannaford Hairspray

Best Choreography in a Musical

Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear Mary Poppins

Best Music Direction

Stephen Brooker and Michael Tyack Mary Poppins

Best Costume Design

Gabriela Tylesova Love Never Dies

Best Scenic Design

Gabriela Tylesova Love Never Dies

Best Lighting Design

Nick Schlieper Love Never Dies

Best Sound Design

Peter Grubb Mary Poppins

 

Theatre

Best Play

The Wild Duck (Belvoir)

Best Direction of a Play

Neil Armfield The Diary of a Madman (Belvoir)

Best Male Actor in a Play

Geoffrey Rush The Diary of a Madman (Belvoir)

Best Female Actor in a Play

Cate Blanchett Uncle Vanya (Sydney Theatre Company in association with Bell Shakespeare)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play

Anthony Phelan The Wild Duck (Belvoir)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play

Anita Hegh The Wild Duck (Belvoir)

Best Comedy Performer

Denise Scott Denise Scott Regrets

Best Cabaret Performer

Eddie Perfect Misanthropology (Sydney Festival)

Best Original Score

Alan John The Diary of a Madman (Belvoir)

 

Dance

Best Regional Touring Production

Bangarra Dance Theatre Mathinna

Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

Natalie Weir 

Where the Heart Is 

(Expressions Dance Company and QPAC)

 

Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production

Not in a Million Years (Force Majeure) 
Best Ballet or Dance Work

 

Where the Heart Is 

(Expressions Dance Company and QPAC)

Best Male Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

Paul White In Glass (Sydney Opera House)

Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production

 

Kristina Chan 

In Glass (Sydney Opera House)

 

 

 

Contemporary

Best New Australian Work

Tim Minchin & Sydney Symphony

Best Presentation for Children

Me and My Shadow (Patch Theatre Company)

Best International Contemporary Concert

Leonard Cohen at Hanging Rock

Best Contemporary Music Festival

Splendour In the Grass 2010

Best Australian Contemporary Concert

Powderfinger Sunsets The Farewell Tour