The argument as to whether or not opera is an ‘elitist’ art form is by now utterly tiresome; we all know that you can get a seat at the Royal Opera or Glyndebourne for less than the cost of a 30cm square standing spot to see the Arctic Monkeys or blink-182, and for this we can thank not only those who have constantly championed wider access to it, but those who have put their money where their mouth is. Prominent amongst them is Harry Hyman, co-founder of the International Opera Awards, who has set an ambitious fundraising target for the annual event’s second ceremony, at Grosvenor House on Monday April 7th.
Glittering as this ceremony promises to be – that is, if last year’s is anything to go by, with opera stars such as Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano prominent amongst the winners – the most important work of the organization is the encouragement of new talent, not just amongst singers but over the whole spectrum of work in Opera. There were over one hundred applicants for last year’s bursaries, and it’s a safe assumption that this year will attract many more, given the already high profile which has been established with the help of the Awards.
Opera Magazine, one of the longest established publications in this field, has become a media partner of the event, and enlisted some of its writers to serve on the jury. The highlighting of new talent has always been part of the magazine’s remit (as indeed it is of musicOMH!) so it was a pleasure to see that Sophie Bevan’s great promise was rewarded with the ‘Best Young Singer’ award.
Accessibility to Opera is another key feature, with a special award (last year won by the Met) to honour innovative schemes which widen access to opera. With so many companies now coming to a greater understanding of both the needs and benefits of widening access, this category is sure to be hotly contested.
Classic FM and the Evening Standard are the other partners associated with the event, which should ensure the widest possible coverage of both the event itself and the bursaries which are on offer. Last year’s winners of the latter included the National Opera Studio and Young Opera Venture as well as many promising singers of whom we are likely to hear great things in the future, including the sopranos Lucy Roberts and Sian Winstanley and the tenor Alexander Sprague.
It was high time that Opera had its own awards to celebrate the outstanding achievements in this field, instead of just a small section of such awards as the Olivier; after all, thanks to wider accessibility via TV and ‘live’ film showings, not to mention the advocacy of online sites such as musicOMH which encourage readers to make the easy journey to Opera from other music forms (we won’t call it crossover!) it is safe to say that interest in this most all-embracing of art forms has never been more widely evident.