Gareth Malone and Opera Holland Park Community Chorus, featuring members of Grenfell community, reunite for performance of ‘Help Me Believe’
Sonya Yoncheva wins Readers’ Award in public vote.
Highlights from ceremony to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 6 May
2019 International Opera Awards sponsored by Mazars Broadcast in association with BBC Radio 3
Founding Media Partner: Opera Magazine
Legendary soprano Leontyne Price was tonight [29 April 2019] awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award at the 2019 International Opera Awards (IOA) at a glittering red-carpet gala event at London’s Sadler’s Wells theatre. The Awards, considered opera’s answer to the Oscars, celebrate achievements in opera around the globe over the last calendar year in a wide range of categories. The IOA acknowledged the pioneering singer’s many achievements over her illustrious career, stating “in a ground-breaking career that for the first time placed a great African-American artist at the very pinnacle of the operatic profession, both in her native United States and throughout Europe, Leontyne Price upheld the highest vocal standards that led to her receiving universal acclaim wherever and whatever she sang.”
With her exceptional voice, huge repertoire and role as a fierce advocate and trailblazer for the civil rights movement in the US, Price is regarded not only as one of the greatest opera stars of our time but also an inspiration to millions across the globe. In 1955 she became the first African-American to sing a leading role in a televised opera in NBC’s live production of Tosca.
Ms Price sang more than 200 performances at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, including the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in an opera written especially for her, Samuel Barber’s Anthony & Cleopatra. She was also the first African-American to become a prima donna with the Metropolitan Opera.
This award is the latest in an illustrious line of accolades for Ms. Price, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the National Medal of Arts (1985), one of the first Opera Honours from the National Endowment of the Arts (2008), 19 Grammys – more than any other classical singer – and many more.
Although unable to attend the ceremony, Price passed on a message of thanks to the Awards, stating: “To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement. I am always delighted when my artistry meets such high-level recognition. It has always served to remind me that it is the artists’ mission to take their art to the people. It was an honour to be able to share my art with so many people. Please express my gratitude to the nominating and selection committee for this honour. I appreciate this tribute more than words could ever express.”
As in previous years, performances formed a central part of the ceremony. Star choirmaster and broadcaster Gareth Malone and the Opera Holland Park Community Chorus, featuring members of the Grenfell community, reunited for the first time since Opera Holland Park’s Hope for Grenfell Memorial Gala last year in a performance of ‘Help Me Believe’. The piece was written in collaboration with members of the local community and composer/pianist Will Todd, who also performed from the piano. Commissioned by the company in memory of staff member Debbie Lamprell and all the victims of the tragedy, the performance featured a choir of children and adults from the Grenfell community. Winners of the International Opera Award’s Education and Outreach award last year, Opera Holland Park have used that win to expand their work with local residents.
There were also performances from past and present IOA Award winners and finalists, including opera stars Charles Castronovo (winner of this year’s Male Singer award), Vivica Genaux and David Butt Philip. Bursary recipients of the Opera Awards Foundation including Anna Patalong and Oliver Johnston also performed, bolstered by the London Philharmonic Choir who performed at the Awards for the first time. Performances were accompanied by the Orpheus Sinfonia, led by their Principal Guest Conductor Oliver Gooch.
Female Singer of the year was presented to soprano Asmik Grigorian, only 3 years after she won the Young Singer prize back in 2016. Another soprano celebrated on the night was Sonya Yoncheva, chosen by the public as their Readers’ Award winner after garnering an astonishing half of all votes cast. The glamorous opera star expressed her gratitude to the jury and to the thousands of fans who voted for her in a video acceptance speech, stating ‘it’s always a very special moment when a singer receives such a great recognition, and especially in this case I’m really, really happy that it comes from the audience: from the people who are here every night, to support our art and to give so much power to our personality and our work”. Mezzo-soprano Marina Viotti was presented with the Mazars Young Singer award.
The Good Governance Award for Leadership in Opera, specially chosen by the jury, went to Waldemar Dąbrowski for his pioneering work in championing Polish opera and music, both in his work in the Polish Ministry of Culture and in running the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw. The Fondation Bru was presented with the award for Philanthropy, for its tireless dedication to the preservation and revival of music emanating from France in the period 1780 to 1920.
Aside from the Readers’ Award, all winners were chosen by an international jury of opera professionals chaired by John Allison, editor of Opera magazine (the Founding Media Partner of the Awards) and classical music critic of The Daily Telegraph. Over 100 finalists from six continents were shortlisted, demonstrating the truly global reach of the Awards.
Presented by BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny for the fourth year running, highlights from the Awards will once again be broadcast on Radio 3 on Monday 6 May at 7.30pm.
Harry Hyman, founder of the International Opera Awards, said: ‘Our winners this year demonstrate that not only is the world of opera thriving but that it has to power to transform lives. Leontyne Price not only possessed one of the greatest voices of all time but as one of the first African-American opera stars she was a trailblazer in an era of segregation. We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude and there couldn’t be a more fitting recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Opera Holland Park’s work in its local community continues to thrive and we are delighted that Gareth Malone has reunited their community choir of local residents that includes so many directly affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. While there are no easy fixes to heal the wounds caused by such a tragedy we know that music and performing music gives voice to many who can feel marginalised.’
The Awards, founded in 2012, aim to raise the profile of opera as an art form, to recognise and reward success in opera and to generate funds to provide bursaries for aspiring operatic talent from around the world. Since 2012 over £300,000 has been raised by the Opera Awards Foundation.