Opera News Announces 2018 OPERA News Awards Honorees
OPERA NEWS Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll has announced the recipients of the 13th Annual OPERA NEWS Awards.
This year's honorees - conductor William Christie, mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto, tenor Vittorio Grigolo, soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, and soprano Sonya Yoncheva - will be celebrated at a black-tie gala celebration on April 22nd, 2018 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Renowned opera singer and recitalist Stephanie Blythe will be the special musical guest.
"Every year, OPERA NEWS looks forward to recognizing well-deserving artists at the OPERA NEWS AWARDS," said Driscoll. "We are grateful for the impact that these five phenomenal men and women have left on the opera world, and we are proud to honor them."
2018 OPERA NEWS Award Recipients:
William Christie: A native of Buffalo, NY, the conductor has made his home in France since 1971, and has been a French citizen since 1995. Christie's interpretations of French Baroque music have revolutionized contemporary understanding of that repertoire and changed performance practice throughout the musical world. Since 1979, Christie's ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, has presented groundbreaking productions of operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claudio Monteverdi, among others. Christie made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2010, leading Mozart's Così Fan Tutte, and returned in 2012 to conduct the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, a pastiche of Baroque music.
Online Editor Adam Wasserman observes: "Conductor William Christie's leadership of his superlative ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, has done more than merely revivify music of the French Baroque. Christie's interpretive efforts have had a transformative effect on the very idea of authenticity in opera. To hear Christie conduct the music of Rameau, Lully, Charpentier, Handel or Mozart, is to understand anew that, while opera may be indebted to the past, it is an art that can only exist in the present moment."
Fiorenza Cossotto: One of the great mezzo-sopranos of the twentieth century, Cossotto was born in Crescentino, Italy. She made her opera debut in 1957, as Sister Matilde in the world premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites. Cossotto's international career brought her to all of the world's great theaters, including Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her company debut in 1968, as Amneris in Aida. Her repertoire in opera and on recordings includes Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Lady Macbeth, Leonora in La Favorite and Carmen. She will celebrate her eighty-third birthday on April 22, the day of the OPERA NEWS Awards gala.
Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll writes: "Fiorenza Cossotto is a living legend. A peerless interpreter of the great Italian mezzo-soprano roles, Cossotto left indelible memories of her performances in theaters throughout North America and Europe. Her prodigious vocal power, her incisive singing and her intense dramatic commitment were and are without equal."
Vittorio Grigolo: Born in Arezzo, Italy, the tenor has been an audience and critical favorite at the Met since his 2010 company debut, as Rodolfo in La Bohème. Grigolo's other Met roles include the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, the title role in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Des Grieux in Massenet's Manon and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette. He returns to the Met this season as Hoffmann, Cavaradossi in the Met's new staging of Tosca, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Raised in Rome, Grigolo began singing at age four and was a soloist in the Sistine Chapel Choir when he was in his early teens. Grigolo's passionate, committed performances have been acclaimed in London, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan, Orange, Geneva, Zurich, Sydney and Washington, D.C.
Assistant Editor Eloise Giegerich pays tribute: "The explosive passion of Vittorio Grigolo's richly textured singing has inspired ecstasy and awe from audiences in the world's greatest opera houses. The tenor is an electric, boldly physical force, whether he's performing the Romantic bel canto heroes of Donizetti, the elegant French repertoire of Gounod and Massenet or the ardent music of Verdi and Puccini."
Hei-Kyung Hong: Born in Gangwon, South Korea, the soprano studied at the Juilliard School of Music. A winner of the 1982 Met National Council Auditions, Hong made her Met debut as Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito in 1984. She has sung more than 250 performances at the Met, her home theater, where she returns this season for Liù in Turandot. Her most frequent Met role is Mimì in La Bohème; her other roles in New York include Violetta in La Traviata, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Micaela in Carmen. Hong has also appeared at La Scala, Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Paris Opera, Rome Opera and Arena di Verona.
Senior Editor Louise T. Guinther says: "In a distinguished international career spanning four decades, the radiant soprano Hei-Kyung Hong has embodied grace and elegance, both in her wide range of onstage roles and in her personal life as a proud representative of Korean-American culture."
Sonya Yoncheva: The renowned soprano first attracted international attention with her first-place win in the 2010 edition of Plácido Domingo's Operalia competition, broadcast live from La Scala. Born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Yoncheva hosted a Bulgarian television series about music while still in her teens. She studied in Geneva before being invited to join William Christie's "Jardin de Voix" for young singers in 2007, and made frequent appearances with Christie early in her career. Yoncheva arrived at the Met in 2013 as Gilda in Rigoletto; subsequent roles for the company have included Violetta, Mimì and Desdemona in the new production of Otello that opened the 2015-16 season. In 2016, she sang her first Norma in a new production at Covent Garden. This season, Yoncheva will sing her first staged performances of the title roles in Verdi's Luisa Miller and Puccini's Tosca at the Met.
Deputy Editor Henry Stewart offers: "In repertoire from Handel to Puccini, Sonya Yoncheva has won loyal fans around the world with the sensitive naturalism of her performances, as if every word of text of the Italian tragedies packed a lifetime of experience. The soprano hooks her listeners with the bursts of youthful exuberance and golden tone she produces with musically assured, soft-edged strength."
On the night of the gala, the honorees will be saluted in song by Stephanie Blythe, the brilliant American mezzo-soprano who received her own OPERA NEWS Award in 2008. Ms. Blythe returns to the Met this season as Madame de Haltière in the company premiere of Massenet's Cendrillon. Her other appearances in 2017-18 include a return to Houston Grand Opera as Cornelia in Giulio Cesare, one of her signature roles, and her role debut as the Marquise of Berkenfield in The Daughter of the Regiment at Atlanta Opera. A graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development program, Ms. Blythe made her Met debut in 1995. Her memorable performances with the Met include Fricka, Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress, Eduige in Rodelinda, Orfeo, Cornelia, Jocasta in Oedipus Rex, Azucena, Amneris, Jezibaba in Rusalka and all three contralto roles in Puccini's Il Trittico.
Individual benefactor tickets to the OPERA NEWS Awards are available for $875; individual President's Circle tickets at $1,250. In addition, Benefactor tables are available for $8,750; President's Circle tables at $12,500. Proceeds from the gala and its live and silent auction will benefit the education programs of The Metropolitan Opera Guild, which has published OPERA NEWS since 1936. A portion of each ticket purchase is tax-deductible as allowed by law. For event information or to purchase tickets, visit The Metropolitan Opera Guild website or call 212-769-7009.
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 and is the only North American publication that covers opera internationally. Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll helms the monthly, which is a winner of six ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music journalism. For more information and the latest opera news visit OperaNews.com, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.