Viewpoint: A Time for Celebration
The Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel
© Dario Acosta 2012
It's that time again: during the last weekend of this month, we will celebrate the distinguished achievements of this season's OPERA NEWS Award honorees at a gala dinner at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel. It is a privilege to salute the artistry of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Peter Mattei, Karita Mattila, Peter Sellars and Anja Silja — a formidable quintet whose work has set the standard for excellence in opera. It will also be a privilege to share the evening with our host, 2007 OPERA NEWS Award winner Stephanie Blythe, whose April calendar is a particularly full one: beginning on April 7, she will be singing Fricka in all three of the long-anticipated complete Ring cycles of the Met's new Robert Lepage staging. Blythe was our ebullient cohost for last season's OPERA NEWS Awards, and we are grateful that she has accepted our invitation to be with us again.
One of the guilty pleasures of researching the tributes in the annual OPERA NEWS Awards issue is spending hours browsing YouTube clips of the honorees. It seems that everything is out there somewhere in cyberspace, from a grainy black-and-white film of Silja singing the Walküre Brünnhilde in Osaka in 1967 to more recent digital captures of Mattila, Mattei and Hvorostovsky in the opera house, in concert or leading master classes. There are abundant available examples of Sellars talking about his work as a director, and plenty of clips from the work itself: the Sellars staging of Handel's Theodora from Glyndebourne is beyond good and evil, in my opinion, though I am also partial to the 1990 film of his modern-dress Giulio Cesare. And who wouldn't want to spend time revisiting Silja in Kostelnicˇka's harrowing confession in Nikolaus Lehnhoff's Glyndebourne production of Jenu°fa? I watched Mattila rocket through Donna Elvira's entrance aria in Luc Bondy's 1990 realization of Don Giovanni, dressed to the nines in a yellow-and-white couture contraption and a tidy little black hat, and applauded her self-control in negotiating Rusalka's "Song to the Moon" in a real-life ice palace, her breath emerging in frosty clouds with each sustained note. I admired Hvorostovsky's sangfroid in his 2002 interview with PBS's Charlie Rose, as well as the supernal poise of his "Farewell, Happiness," sung a cappella as an encore at a concert in Moscow (2007) and a recital in Japan (2003). Also impressive are clips from the 2001 Singer of the World competition, with past winners Hvorostovsky and Mattila performing as guest artists. In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that my favorite discovery during my YouTube hours was Mattei's participation in the 2010 pre-wedding concert for the Crown Princess of Sweden and her then-fiancé, in which a lineup of star singers onstage at the Stockholm Concert Hall and an audience stuffed with royal-wedding guests join in a group sing-along of "Can't Help Fallin' in Love with You." (Spoiler alert: Queen Anne-Marie of Greece chimes in first, but Prince Albert of Monaco seems to know the lyrics better than anyone else.)
This issue of OPERA NEWS, which contains our written tributes to the five honorees, is a labor-intensive one for all of the editors, but it is an issue we all anticipate with pleasure. We hope you will enjoy our celebration of the OPERA NEWS Awards within these pages and visit operanews.com later this month for our audio and video tributes.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.
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