Sunday, 16 February 2014

2014 Opera Awards finalists

The Opera Awards
This year's Opera Awards takes place on 7 April 2014 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, following on from last year's debut from the awards. The finalists in the 19 categories have now been announced and one of the delights of such lists is being able to go through the selections and see if your ideas match those of the judges.

There is a special section, Anniversary Production, covering new productions for the 2013 centenarians, Britten, Wagner and Verdi. The Britten productions include Aldeburgh's Peter Grimes on the Beach as well as the Hamburg/ROH Gloriana (filed under Hamburg where the title role was sung by Amanda Roocroft) and A Midsummer Night's Dream from Rio di Janeiro (which sounded as if it was fabulous).  Verdi includes the ROH Les Vepres Siciliennes (notable, but was that really the best Verdi we had to offer?), the Hamburg Verdi trilogy whilst the Melbourne Ring is the only complete Ring in the Wagner section, plus Parsifal from the Met and Flanders. Frankly, whilst there is a lot of interesting and notable work, its a bit depressing; are these really the best centenary opera productions. Perhaps the category ought to have included revivals as well.


The ROH Les Vepres Siciliennes crops up in the New Production category too, along with WNO's Lulu and ENO's Wozzeck, plus Die Frau ohne Schatten from Munich, Guillaume Tell from Pesaro, Die Soldaten from Zurich and Norma from Salzburg. Does it say something about the state of opera production, or about the selection criteria, that the list includes four 20th century warhorses, variously regarded as difficult, plus two rare French grand operas with an Italian accent?

There are some fine names in the Young Singer category and each deserves congratulations for getting a mention: Emöke Baráth, Jamie Barton, Helena Dix, Joyce El-Khoury, Joélle Harvey, Duncan Rock, Corinne Winters and Pretty Yende. Unless you scoot about the world seeing opera, its difficult to assess the work of all of these though many have appeared in the UK. I was lucky enough to catch Duncan Rock in Glyndebourne's Billy Budd in 2013 and Joyce El-Khoury in Opera Rara's concert performance of Donizetti's Belisario in 2012, whilst Pretty Yende gave a fine recital for Rosenblatt Recitals. Australian born Helena Dix has started to make a name for herself as a spinto soprano with some fine performances in the UK and elsewhere, including the title role in Cristina Regina di Svezia at Wexford. Jamie Barton of course, won the Cardiff Singer of the World and has been doing fine work since. Hungarian soprano Emöke Baráth has recorded the role of Sesto in Handel's Giulio Cesare with Alan Curtis and sang the title role in Cavalli's Elena at Aix last year. American soprano Joélle Harvey has appeared with Glyndebourne and is in the Royal Opera's production of Cavalli's L'Ormindo at the Globe Theatre. The American soprano Corinne Winters made a notable debut as Violetta in ENO's new La Traviata and is returning for the new production of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini

The list of Directors is varied, Calixto Bieito, Tatjana Gürbaca, Barrie Kosky, Martin Kušej, Dmitri Tcherniakov and Graham Vick; all various interventionist and none really given to quiet, unassuming thoughtful work. Bieito's recent Fidelio at the London Coliseum will hardly have endeared him to UK audiences, Tatjana Gürbaca directed Flemish Opera's notable production of Parsifal though most of her work has been in Germany. Barrie Kosky is based at the Komische Oper in Berlin, but gave us a notable Castor et Pollux (Rameau) at the London Coliseum and Opera Frankfurt presented his double bill of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at last years Edinburgh Festival. Austrian director Martin Kušej is another director who has done significant work in Germany with some notable productions in Munich. Dmitri Tcherniakov's work in the UK has been variable, with his disappointing Simon Boccanegra for ENO, and the striking Eugene Onegin which the Mariinsky brought on tour. Graham Vick of course directed Birmingham Opera Company's production of Stockhausen's Mittwoch aus Licht in 2012 and the same company will be doing Mussorgsky's Khovanschina this year.

The Designers includes one or two heartening names notably that of Leslie Travers, well done there.

To select the Male Singer is frankly impossible, with a list consisting of Stéphane Degout, Bryan Hymel, Peter Mattei, Luca Pisaroni, Stuart Skelton, Michael Volle and Ludovic Tézier. Similarly the Female Singer: Diana Damrau, Christine Goerke, Anja Harteros, Christiane Karg, Petra Lang, Adrienne Pieczonka and Krassimira Stoyanova. The Conductor category includes six, each of whom is doing interesting (but different) work: Teodor Currentzis, Mark Elder, Andris Nelsons, Gianandrea Noseda, Kirill Petrenko and Simone Young.

Full details of the finalists in all the categories are on the Opera Awards website.

Elsewhere on this blog:

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