Audra McDonald Named '2014 Musician of the Year' by Musical America
Musical America, now in its third century as the indispensable resource for the performing arts, today announced the winners of the annual Musical America Awards, recognizing artistic excellence and achievement in the arts.
The announcement precedes the December publication of the 2014 Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, which, in addition to its comprehensive industry listings, pays homage to each of these artists in its editorial pages.
The annual Musical America Awards will be presented in a special ceremony at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, December 17.
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both singer and actress. She is fearless, vocally and physically. Her immediately recognizable soprano is rich, flexible, and incandescent, with a huge dynamic range, equally persuasive as silk or gravel, belt or whisper. It's also genre-bending, since she can sing across the spectrum, from opera to blues, pop to gospel. She is what Barbara Cook calls "the whole package."
Among numerous accolades, she has received five Tony Awards, the first of which she won at only 23 for her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in Nicholas Hytner's legendary production of Carousel (1994) at Lincoln Center. Other musicals were Ragtime (1998) and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (2012). Two of her Tonys are for performances in dramatic productions: Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (2004) and Terrence McNally's Masterclass (1996), where her role as a vocal student required her to sing a Verdi aria in every performance. This Juilliard School graduate relishes acting without the support of music and she approaches every role, musical or non-musical, even every song, precisely the same way. It's all about character, she tells Katrine Ames in Musical America's tribute, and something she can connect to: "Who is this person? What does she want? What truth am I trying to convey?"
Truth is the theme of her latest, and most personal, Nonesuch album, Go Back Home. Released earlier this year, it marks her first solo disc in seven years, with many of its songs figuring in her current 22-city North American concert tour. She also continues in her second season as official host of Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. On December 5th, she will appear as the Mother Abbess in a live television broadcast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music on NBC.
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR: GEORGE BENJAMIN
George Benjamin began studies at age 15 with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire. His first orchestral work, Ringed by the Flat Horizon, was written at 20 and conducted by Pierre Boulez. A spectacular career ensued, with works for varied instrumental combinations creating rich textures and harmonic beauty. His sharp ear for poetry and precision was thrillingly revealed in his 2012 opera, Written on Skin, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and available on a Nimbus CD set and DVD. In nearly 40 international performances, it has received universal praise. The piece tells one of the oldest stories in the world, a triangular tale of sexual curiosity, rhapsodic love, and violent jealousy. But it does so in a language all its own, at once exquisitely wrought and devastatingly raw. When Written on Skin received its U.S. premiere in concert at Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music in August, Jeremy Eichler in the Boston Globe called it a "complexly beautiful 21st-century score, one that carries forward the worlds of Debussy and Berg without surrendering to either one." That performance was recorded by the Festival and will receive its world webcast premiere on New York's Q2 Music--WQXR's online music station devoted to new music--on Tuesday, November 5, at 8 p.m. ET. A music stream will be available at www.wqxr.org/q2music for six months following the initial webcast.