The evening after he had laid us all out in the aisles with his Verdi and Wagner at the Festival Hall, Jonas Kaufmann had his pre-eminence confirmed when he won both the award for the Best Male Singer and the Readers’ Award as voted for by readers of Opera magazine, at the first International Opera Awards ceremony at the Park Lane Hilton.
Kaufmann seemed a trifle bemused to have been given two awards, and if these Awards are to become the ‘Oscars of Opera,’ let’s hope all the future recipients are as disarmingly modest and generous as Mr Kaufmann and Sir Antonio Pappano, the other ‘double winner’ who took the awards for Best Conductor and for the DVD of Il Trittico.
The award for Best Female Singer went to Nina Stemme, justly deserved for her many great performances, and that for the Best Young Singer went to the soprano Sophie Bevan, to be added to her growing total of awards and critical accolades, sure to be enhanced by her Pamina next month at Covent Garden.
Best Opera Company went to Frankfurt Opera, which under its intendant Bernd Loebe has achieved almost full houses for a repertoire which balances standards with less frequently performed works. Sir George Christie was the obvious choice for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and awards for Best New Production and Best World Premiere went to the Netherlands Opera’s The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (Rimsky-Korsakov) and George Benjamin’s Written on Skin respectively.
Many wonderful evenings at the opera house and in the theatre have been made more so, and many ghastly ones have been saved from disaster, courtesy of the poetic, inspired lighting of Paule Constable, so it was a joy to see that she won the Lighting Designer award. Daniele Rustioni was the clear choice for winner of the Best Newcomer (Conductor or Director) award, and he Metropolitan Opera’s Orchestra was voted the best in its field.
The awards were a joint endeavour by Opera magazine and the British businessman Harry Hyman, with the intention of widening the audience for opera; the Evening Standard (whose Editor presented one of Kaufmann’s awards) supported the venture, and some of the proceeds from the event will go towards funding bursaries to encourage emergent opera stars. Do we really need yet more awards, given that we already have several? Yes, we do, when they concentrate on high quality performances and artists such as these.