QandA

Joyce DiDonato on the Ninth Annual Opera News Awards

Joyce DiDonato, who hosts the Ninth Annual Opera News Awards on Sunday, April 13, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, was a recipient of the prize for distinguished achievement in 2009. Here the mezzo answers four questions about the event, and shares some of her indelible memories from past Opera News Awards.

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Portrait photographed in New York by James Salzano
© James Salzano 2014

The ninth annual Opera News Awards take place on Sunday, April 13, honoring the late director Patrice Chéreau, tenor Juan Diego Flórez, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, bass-baritone James Morris, and soprano Nina Stemme with a star-studded awards gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. This year's event will be hosted by Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce, with an illustrious group of presenters including Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine. First introduced in 2005, the Opera News Awards gala dinner — highlighted by spoken tributes and video performance clips of the awardees — has become one of the most anticipated opera events of the season: an evening of celebration, appreciation, reuniting, and celebrity-spotting that is without parallel in the industry. In the Q&A below, co-host DiDonato — whom the New York Times has dubbed "the perfect 21st-century diva" — describes the experience of winning her own Opera News Award five years ago, recalls an awe-inspiring performance at a previous Opera News Awards gala, and shares an embarrassing memory involving her co-host. 

Q: Can you tell us about your own reaction to hearing that you had won an Opera News Award?

JOYCE DIDONATO: My first reaction was "But I'm too young to receive this!" And then the thought came to me, "Ah, perhaps I'm not quite as young as I imagined myself to be!" Growing up in the Midwest in pre-YouTube days and attending college more than 200 miles from the nearest opera house, as a newcomer to the universe of opera, my only source for discovery was Opera News. It brought the world of opera to my doorstep, and I devoured every single sentence in that magazine, scouring the datelines, the news watches, and broadcast stories. It made me feel connected to a world I dreamt of joining one day. To be honored by this same magazine — opera's bible, if you will — was one of the great moments of my career. 

Q: How many Opera News Awards gala events have you attended, and what are some of your fondest memories from them? Did you unexpectedly meet any of your inspirations at the galas?

JDD: I'll never forget the year I presented Olga Borodina with her award. Leontyne Price was also a recipient, and she brought the entirety of the Plaza ballroom to a complete, euphoric standstill as she serenaded us with "Homing" as part of her acceptance speech — complete with a diminuendo on a high A. We sat there spellbound at her ability not only to still sing beautifully, but once again to mesmerize her audience and transport us to another world! 

Q: When did you meet David Hyde Pierce and have you ever worked together before?

JDD: David is an avid opera fan and I've met him several times after performances — but I believe the first time we actually bonded, martinis were being served! A few years later we joined in duet for a Classical Action event singing "You're the Top." Of course, I was so nervous I couldn't remember any of my words and I do believe I actually sang the lyrics, "Because if baby you're the bottom, I'm the top" to him. I can't believe he's still speaking to me!

Q: Have you taken any hosting cues from favorite Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy or Tony hosts?

JDD: I hope to channel Neil Patrick Harris, as I think no one does it better than him. I think brevity and levity will be the name of the game, while being sure all the focus shines brightest on these most deserving, legendary artists. spacer 

Details of the ninth annual Opera News Awards are provided below, and more information is available here

 

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6