Ninth Annual Opera News Awards Honorees Announced
The editors of Opera News are pleased to announce the honorees for the ninth annual Opera News Awards, paying tribute to five superb artists who have made invaluable contributions to the art form: director Patrice Chéreau, tenor Juan Diego Flórez, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, bass-baritone James Morris and soprano Nina Stemme. The Opera News Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 13 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. All the winners – and a host of the city’s cultural, civic, and social luminaries – will be present at the gala awards dinner, which will feature celebrity presenters speaking about the awardees and introducing video performance clips.
Created in 2005, the Opera News Awards recognize five individuals each year for distinguished achievement in the field of opera. Proceeds from the gala evening on April 13 will benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The official announcement of this year’s honorees appears in the October 2013 issue of Opera News, which is available on September 11 and has composer Nico Muhly on the cover, in connection with the performance of his opera Two Boys at the Met. The April 2014 issue of Opera News will contain tributes to the five awardees, all distinguished members of the international opera community.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Opera News Awards includes a special sweepstakes that will give a lucky winner round-trip air transportation for two to New York, as well as a two-night stay at the Trump International Hotel and Tower and VIP tickets to the Opera News Awards. No purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes; details are available at www.operanews.com/ONawards.
The editors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Opera News have offered brief pre-publication accolades to this year’s award recipients. Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll praises Mr. Chéreau:
“With his brilliant Bayreuth staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen, Patrice Chéreau gave Wagner’s masterwork new vitality and relevance. Chéreau challenges and enlightens audiences with his supremely intelligent and uncompromising work in opera, theater and film. His Met production of From the House of the Dead was one of the great opera experiences of the last decade, and his recent staging of Strauss's Elektra at the Aix Festival was the unquestioned triumph of the summer season in Europe.”
Associate Editor Tristan Kraft applauds Mr. Flórez:
“Juan Diego Flórez has that combination of style, taste, acting ability, and vocal prowess that would have made him a star in any era, not just ours. He has a way of reminding opera-goers that singing opera not only requires great talent but can be great fun.”
Senior Editor Louise Guinther pays tribute to Ms. Ludwig:
“The career of Christa Ludwig shines as a beacon of compleat artistry; she inhabited the distinct worlds of opera and lieder with equal measures of grace, generosity, and sophistication, bringing her lush, unmistakable mezzo timbre and her extraordinary textual acuity to the most overtly dramatic role of the lyric stage, as well as to the most delicately shaded nuance of art song.”
Features Editor Brian Kellow extols the gifts of Mr. Morris:
“James Morris’s best performances have been marked by both grandeur and subtlety, a combination of qualities that made him the leading Wotan of his generation. An impressive, imposing sound was never quite enough for him; he could also take us by surprise with moments of great beauty and finesse.”
Online Editor Adam Wasserman salutes Ms. Stemme:
“Nina Stemme has emerged as the indisputable dramatic soprano of her generation. With her molten midrange, gleaming top and generous phrasing, Stemme makes real the joys and sorrows of Wagner, Strauss, and Puccini heroines in a manner that is at once classic in style and unlike anything we’ve heard before.”
Commenting further about the winners of the ninth annual Opera News Awards, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, F. Paul Driscoll, notes:
“The depth and range of achievements of this year's five honorees is breathtaking. With their total commitment to the art form, these artists represent the very best in the world of opera, and the editors of Opera News look forward with enthusiasm to celebrating their work at the gala in April.”
Beyond offering the opportunity to pay tribute to the distinguished achievements of some of the leading artists of our time, the Opera News Awards gala dinner has become an important and much-anticipated date on the opera community’s calendar: a time for singers, artistic administrators, and managers – as well as those social and political leaders who support opera – to come together in a spirit of camaraderie and celebration.
Trump International Hotel and Tower are the presenting sponsor for the Opera News Awards sweepstakes.
Opera News has been published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild since 1936; it has the largest circulation of any classical music magazine in the United States. The magazine, published monthly, is a winner of three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music journalism.
Previous Opera News Awards honorees:
Eighth (2012-13): Mirella Freni, Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels, Simon Keenlyside, Eric Owens
Seventh (2011-12): Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Peter Mattei, Karita Mattila, Anja Silja, Peter Sellars
Sixth (2010-11): Jonas Kaufmann, Riccardo Muti, Patricia Racette, Kiri Te Kanawa, Bryn Terfel
Fifth (2009-10): Martina Arroyo, Joyce DiDonato, Gerald Finley, Philip Glass, Shirley Verrett
Fourth (2008-9): John Adams, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes
Third (2007-8): Olga Borodina, Stephanie Blythe, Thomas Hampson, Leontyne Price, Julius Rudel
Second (2006-7): Ben Heppner, James Levine, René Pape, Renata Scotto, Deborah Voigt
First (2005-6): James Conlon, Régine Crespin, Plácido Domingo, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick
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Opera News Awards: honoree bios
Patrice Chéreau was born in Lézigné, Maine-et-Loire, France, and began directing professionally for the theater at the age of 19. Chéreau made opera history in 1976, with his revolutionary staging of Wagner’s Ring at the Bayreuth Festival. Chéreau's production set the action of the trilogy in the context of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, and has been called one of the most influential opera stagings of all time. The Chéreau Ring was taped at Bayreuth and later televised internationally.
Also acclaimed as a film director, Chéreau's movies include L’homme blessé (1983), Queen Margot (1994), Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998), Intimacy (2001), Son frère (2003), Gabrielle (2005), and Persécution (2009). In 2010, Chéreau was a guest curator at the Louvre, where he incorporated dance, opera, theater, film, and painting in a show titled Les visages et les corps (Faces and Bodies). Chéreau’s film appearances as an actor include General Montcalm in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Max in Claude Berri’s Lucie Aubrac (1997), and Thomas Brandt in Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf (2003).
In 2009, Chéreau made his Met debut with his production of Janácek’s From the House of the Dead, which was also seen in Vienna, Milan, and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Chéreau’s staging of Richard Strauss’s Elektra was the smash hit of the 2013 Aix Festival, and will be seen in spring 2014 at La Scala, Milan. A co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, the Chéreau Elektra will bow in New York in a future season.
JUAN DIEGO FLÓREZ
Tenor Juan Diego Flórez is the bel canto tenor of choice at the leading opera houses of the world. His fluid, expressive singing and dazzling virtuosity have won him acclaim in the works of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. Born in Lima, Peru, Flórez was educated at Peru’s National Conservatory of Music and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Flórez attracted worldwide attention at the age of 23, when he stepped into the leading role of Corradino in Matilde di Shabran at the 1996 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. He scored an enormous success in a very difficult role, and his international career was soon underway. That same year, he made his debut at La Scala on the opening night of the season, under the baton of Riccardo Muti. Since then, Flórez has established himself as an audience and critical favorite at every important opera house and festival in Europe and North America, with a repertoire that now includes more than 30 operas.
Flórez made his Met debut in 2002, as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He has sung more than 90 performances with the company to date, including leading roles in new Met productions of Barbiere, Don Pasquale, Le comte Ory, La Sonnambula, and La fille du régiment. This season, Flórez returns to the Met as Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola, which will be transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series.
In 2007, Flórez was awarded the Order of the Sun, Grand Cross, by his native country of Peru. He was given the honorary title of Kammersänger by the Minister of Cultural Affairs of Austria in 2012.
Mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig is one of opera’s authentic legends. An incomparable singer of lieder and concert repertoire as well as opera, Ludwig was born in Berlin. Her parents were both singers, and her first voice teacher was her mother, mezzo-soprano Eugenie Besalla-Ludwig. Ludwig made her opera debut in 1946, as Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus at the Frankfurt State Opera. She made her Salzburg debut in 1954, as Cherubino, and arrived at the Vienna State Opera the following year, at the invitation of Karl Böhm. Ludwig sang in Vienna for more than 30 years and was named a Kammersängerin in 1962. Her repertoire in Vienna ranged from the heroines of Mozart to Carmen, Leonore in Fidelio, Venus in Tannhäuser, Ortrud, and Claire in the 1971 world premiere of Gottfried von Einem’s opera Besuch der alten Dame. She made her Bayreuth debut in 1966 as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde.
Ludwig’s first U.S. opera appearance was in 1959, as Dorabella at Lyric Opera of Chicago. She made her Met debut later the same year, as Cherubino, and went on to appear with the company in 15 different roles, including the Dyer’s Wife in the 1966 Met premiere of Die Frau ohne Schatten, the Marschallin, Klytämnestra, Fricka, Kundry, Didon in Les Troyens and Charlotte in Werther. She made her last Met appearance in 1993, as Fricka to the Wotan of her fellow Opera News Awards honoree, James Morris.
Ludwig has sung under all the great conductors of her era, enjoying especially productive working relationships with James Levine, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, and Karl Böhm. Ludwig’s concert and recital repertoire was vast, but she was especially admired for her performances of Mahler, Brahms, and Schubert in partnership with pianists Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons.
James Morris made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1971, as the King in Aida, and has sung 940 performances with the company in New York and on tour. The bass-baritone is universally celebrated for his monumental interpretation of Wotan in Wagner’s cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, which he sang under James Levine’s baton in the Met’s first video recording of the Ring, televised in 1990, and in two complete “Ring” cycles on disc – one for Deutsche Grammophon under James Levine and one for EMI under Bernard Haitink. Morris has also appeared as Wotan at the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and San Francisco Opera. Morris’s other signature roles include Wagner’s Dutchman and Hans Sachs; the four villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann; Scarpia in Tosca; Mozart’s Figaro and Don Giovanni; Méphistophélès; and Claggart in Billy Budd.
This season, Morris will debut the role of Oroveso in Bellini’s Norma at the Metropolitan Opera. He recently returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Hans Sachs in a new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, and made his role debut as the Doctor in Berg’s Wozzeck with the English National Opera. In 2010, Morris sang leading roles in two transmissions in the Met: Live in HD series – Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, in which he sang Fiesco, and Thomas’s Hamlet, in which he was Claudius.
Born and educated in Baltimore, Morris studied at the Peabody Conservatory and with Rosa Ponselle. He continued his education at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied with bass Nicola Moscona, and made his professional debut in 1967, at Baltimore Opera, as Crespel in Les contes d'Hoffmann.
Nina Stemme, one of the world’s leading dramatic sopranos, was born and educated in Stockholm. She made her opera debut as Cherubino in Cortona, Italy, in 1989 and was named winner of the Operalia competition in 1993. A remarkable interpreter of the heroines of Richard Wagner, Stemme has sung Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Zurich Opera, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and has brought her Brünnhilde to Munich, Milan, Vienna, and San Francisco.
Stemme made her Met debut in 2000, as Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer, and returned in 2010 for Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos. Met appearances as Strauss’s Elektra and Wagner’s Isolde are planned for future seasons. In 2012, Stemme made a triumphant concert appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in the title role of Salome. Her other roles range from Wagner's Elisabeth, Eva, Elsa, Sieglinde, and Senta to Verdi’s Aida and Amelia, Puccini’s Tosca, Turandot, Mimì, Minnie, and Cio-Cio-San and Strauss’s Arabella and the Marschallin.
Stemme was named a Swedish Royal Court Singer in 2006 and received the title Kammersängerin of the Vienna State Opera in 2012. A winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Tristan und Isolde at Covent Garden, Stemme was chosen as Singer of the Year by Opernwelt and won the first Opera Award in London in 2013.
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© 21C Media Group, September 2013
Published: September 11, 2013