Claire Jackson

International Opera Awards reveals winners

8:59, 10th April 2018

Teresa Berganza has scooped the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s International Opera Awards, which took place on 9 April at the London Coliseum. The distinguished Spanish mezzo-soprano, 83, blazed a trail in the opera houses of the world from the late 1950s into the 1980s, especially in the operas of Rossini and Mozart. The singer accepted her award from the former director of Covent Garden, Sir Jeremy Isaacs.

The audience, meanwhile, was treated to a video clip of Berganza performing in her youth, singing Cherubino’s aria, ‘Voi che sapete’ from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. It proved to be a masterclass in how to sing Mozart – simple, subtle, heartfelt and with a focus on sheer beauty rather than vocal histrionics. (Watch the clip here.)

The sixth instalment of the glitzy awards celebrated top operatic talent while raising funds for the Opera Awards Foundation. There were concert performances by Anne Sophie Duprels, Brindley Sherratt, Toby Spence and Camilla Tilling.

PrettyThe award for Female Singer went to Swedish soprano Malin Byström, and Polish tenor Piotr Beczała took the Male Singer award. The Readers’ Award (voted for by Opera magazine readers) went to Pretty Yende (pictured), last year’s winner for Solo Recital Recording, who received more than 10,000 votes online.

New Zealander Annette Campbell-White was presented with an award for philanthropy. Based in the US, Campbell-White is a successful venture capitalist in health care, and a great supporter of the arts, particularly opera. In her speech, she gave some excellent advice to the assembled audience of opera lovers: ‘You don’t have to be super-wealthy to give,’ she said. ‘Give whatever you can afford, no matter how small; give to something you are passionate about, just as I am passionate about opera and music; and give consistently over time. By giving in this way, you will be rewarded many times over during your life.’ One of the great rewards in her life has been to develop a friendship with Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton, who presented her with her award: ‘My husband I and don’t have children,’ she said, tearfully, ‘and Stuart has become like our son.’

Composer Brett Dean made some amusing observations in his acceptance speech for the World Premiere Award. For his new operatic version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he assembled a creative team that was largely Australian, including himself, the director Neil Armfield and designer Ralph Myers, working alongside Canadian librettist Matthew Jocelyn. ‘A bunch of Australians and a Canadian taking one of the the most hallowed works by Britain’s most revered literary genius and then presenting it at Glyndbourne,’ said Dean, ‘felt like tampering on a scale that makes recent ball tampering by the Aussie cricket team seem almost insignificant!’

Further award winners include Vladimir Jurowski (Conductor), Mariusz Treliński (Director), Bayerische Staatsoper (Opera Company), Festival Verdi Parma (Festival), Teatro Real’s production of Billy Budd (New Production), and Opera Holland Park (Education and Outreach).

BBC Radio 3, which has partnered with the International Opera Awards for the second year running, will broadcast highlights from the ceremony in a special 90-minute programme on 15 April at 9.15pm.

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