Pinchgut Opera has been honoured at this year’s International Opera Awards, winning best Rediscovered Work for its production of Hasse’s Artaserse. Conducted by Artistic Director Erin Helyard and featuring the Orchestra of the Antipodes and a strong cast of local and international talent headed up by acclaimed mezzo Vivica Genaux, the opera was seen in its second, 1740 Dresden version in Sydney last November. The staging by Chas Rader-Shieber marked the first time the 1740 version had been performed, staged or recorded since its premiere, and the win represents the first time an Australian company has won an International Opera Award. Helyard and Genaux accepted the award on behalf of the company and gave a performance of an aria from Hasse’s Cleofide at last night’s ceremony, which was held at London’s Sadler’s Wells.

Erin Helyard and Vivica Genaux accept their award. Photo © Chris Christodoulou

“We at Pinchgut are enormously proud to announce that this evening we received the award for Best Rediscovered Work at the 2019 International Opera Awards at Sadler’s Wells for our 2018 production of Hasse’s Artaserse,” said Helyard. “Vivica Genaux and I performed at the awards ceremony and we were thrilled to have in the audience many supportive Australian artists, Brett Dean and Helen Sherman among them. The category of Best Rediscovered Opera had eight nominees so we were among some extraordinary company. Pinchgut has made it its mission for the last 17 years to bring neglected masterworks to life, so to be honoured this way on the international stage is an exceptional achievement. My love and congratulations to all who made this production a success!”

Vivica Genaux and David Hansen in Pinchgut Opera’s Artaserse. Photo © Brett Boardman

Other notable wins included the legendary soprano Leontyne Price, who received a Lifetime Achievement award for a “ground-breaking career that for the first time placed a great African-American artist at the very pinnacle of the operatic profession, both in her native United States and throughout Europe… Leontyne Price upheld the highest vocal standards that led to her receiving universal acclaim wherever and whatever she sang.”

Leontyne Price in the Metropolitan Opera’s Tosca © Metropolitan Opera and Louis Mélancon

Although unable to receive her award in person, Price passed on her thanks. “To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement,” she said. “I am always delighted when my artistry meets such high-level recognition. It has always served to remind me that it is the artists’ mission to take their art to the people. It was an honour to be able to share my art with so many people. Please express my gratitude to the nominating and selection committee for this honour. I appreciate this tribute more than words could ever express.”

Other individuals honoured include Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian, who was named Female Singer of the year only three years after scooping the Young Singer prize in 2016. American tenor Charles Castronovo was presented with the best Male Singer award, while Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva received the Readers’ Award. Significantly, she collected 50 percent of the public vote. Swiss mezzo Marina Viotti was meanwhile honoured with the Mazars Young Singer award, while best Newcomer went to conductor Maxim Emelyanychev.

In another Australian connection, Shirley Apthorp’s Umculo Cape Festival has received the award for best Education and Outreach. Apthorp, who founded and directs the organisation that brings music theatre to young people and adults in South Africa, is a music journalist who has written for Limelight.

Other big wins included Conductor of the Year going to Marc Albrecht, while Katie Mitchell was presented with the best Director honour. Belgium’s Opera Vlaanderen was named best Opera Company.

The annual International Opera Awards celebrates achievement in opera across a wide range of categories, encompassing performance, design, direction, education and outreach. This year’s finalists were chosen by an international jury of 42, chaired by Opera Magazine Editor John Allison and including Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini.

FULL LIST OF WINNERS

CHORUS
Bolshoi Opera

CONDUCTOR
Marc Albrecht

DESIGNER
Rebecca Ringst

DIRECTOR
Katie Mitchell

EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Umculo Cape Festival

FEMALE SINGER
Asmik Grigorian

FESTIVAL 
Janáček Brno Festival

GOOD GOVERNANCE AWARD FOR LEADERSHIP IN OPERA
Waldemar Dąbrowski

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Leontyne Price

MALE SINGER
Charles Castronovo

MAZARS YOUNG SINGER 
Marina Viotti

NEW PRODUCTION (supported by the KT Wong Foundation)
Janáček: From the House of the Dead, d. Krzysztof Warlikowski (Royal Opera House)

NEWCOMER 
Maxim Emelyanychev

OPERA COMPANY
Opera Vlaanderen

OPERA ORCHESTRA
Royal Opera House

PHILANTHROPY 
Fondation Bru

READERS’ AWARD
Sonya Yoncheva

RECORDING (COMPLETE OPERA)
Rossini: Semiramide (Opera Rara)

RECORDING (SOLO RECITAL)
Stéphane Degout: Enfers (Harmonia Mundi)

REDISCOVERED WORK
Hasse: Artaserse (Pinchgut Opera)

WORLD PREMIERE (sponsored by The Vineyard)
Kurtág: Fin de partie (Teatro alla Scala)