Viewpoint: Time for Celebration
The first opera news Awards, 2005: OPERA NEWS Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll, then MOG president Susan Braddock, host Sam Waterston, presenter Renata Scotto and the first quintet of ON Award-winners, Susan Graham, Plácido Domingo, Dolora Zajick, Régine Crespin and James Conlon
© Dario Acosta 2015
The only thing in life that passes faster than a year is a decade. This is the tenth year that an issue of OPERA NEWS has been devoted to the annual OPERA NEWS Awards, with tributes to each of the honorees written by one of the editors. Four of us — Louise T. Guinther, Brian Kellow, Adam Wasserman and I — have been lucky enough to write tributes every year. This year, Henry Stewart, the newest member of our editorial team, joins us to write an essay on Piotr Beczala, an artist who had yet to make his Met debut when the awards were inaugurated, in 2005.
For me, writing one of these tributes each year is great fun. I get to listen to a lot of wonderful music and watch some fantastic videos when I’m trying to capture on paper the special qualities of the honoree I’ve been assigned. The work of the artists I’ve written about in these tribute issues has, in most cases, been well-documented in performance and on recording. It was comforting to know that I didn’t have the burden of explaining the magic of Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila or Shirley Verrett — all singers whom I paid tribute to in an OPERA NEWS Awards issue — in an exhaustive way to future generations of opera-lovers. The evidence of their individual greatness is still available, with an astonishing amount of their best work posted on YouTube, to anyone who cares to be pointed in the right direction. I find YouTube completely addictive. Frequently a YouTube clip has offered me glimpses of a singer’s artistry that expanded my admiration; when I was researching Shirley Verrett’s work, the mezzo’s sly, finger-snapping rehearsal performance of “Witness” set the seal on that song for me forever. (Who knew that Princess Eboli could swing?) It was also revelatory to watch singers at work in productions and in roles that I never saw them perform live; Karita Mattila’s Élisabeth de Valois in Luc Bondy’s French-language Don Carlos was and is perfection, and it gave me another reason to treasure an artist I admire. And there was always the happy experience of revisiting performances that I had first experienced on television — Leontyne Price and Marilyn Horne’s knockout turns at the Met’s Centennial Gala and Mirella Freni’s heavenly “Io son l’umile ancella” from a 1991 celebration of the Met at Lincoln Center.
This year, my tribute subject is Teresa Stratas. I wish that I had seen her sing live more often than I did, because every Stratas performance was a special occasion. There was never anyone remotely like her, and it is a privilege to honor her.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
CORRECTION: The version of “Ave Maria” credited to Giulio Caccini on Elina Garanča’s Meditation was written by Vladimir Vavilov (Recordings, Dec.).
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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