The 2008 Olivier Award nominations have been announced and there’s at least one surprise in the Opera category. Stanislav Nordey’s controversial staging of Pelleas and Melisande has gained three out of eight possible nominations spread across the two Opera awards.
The production is up for the Best New Opera Production, alongside the Royal Opera’s La fille du regiment and David McVicar’s Agrippina and The Turn of the Screw, both for English National Opera. In addition, Angelika Kirchschlager and Gerald Finley have both been nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Opera for their performances in the Debussy work (they are up against McVicar and Natalie Dessay for her work in the Donizetti).
That makes a total of just four productions that are in the running and it makes you wonder how many operas the judges actually saw. One serious omission is Deborah Warner’s stunning production of Death in Venice for ENO.
The awards, London theatreland’s most prestigious, are run by the Society of London Theatres and the panel that decides on nominations consists of three professionals and two members of the public for the Opera category. Who they are isn’t clear but it’s unlikely to include most of the regular opera critics, who gave Pelleas and Melisande a sound drubbing.
Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph described it as a “travesty” with “hideous sets, costumes and pretence of direction”. Giving it 2 stars, MusicOMH’s reviewer said “Only the superb musical direction under Sir Simon Rattle prevents (it) from being an unmitigated disaster”.
Kirchschlager and Finley are two of the best artists around but this was hardly their finest hour, although few people doubted the quality of the musical contribution. As Ed Seckerson said in The Independent, it was “best enjoyed with eyes shut”.
Not many will disagree with the inclusion of David McVicar in the line-up (he has three nods), a director who rarely puts a foot wrong while certainly not playing safe. Agrippina and The Turn of the Screw both got 5 stars from musicOMH, reflecting the general view.
The announcement of the Olivier winners will be on Sunday 9 March in the star-studded ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel.