The winners of the 2022 International Opera Awards have been revealed, with two Ukrainian companies jointly taking the Opera Company award, at an award ceremony at Teatro Real in Madrid, hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny.
Lviv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre and Odesa Opera and Ballet Theatre were given the award to acknowledge their courage and resilience for continuing to perform despite the dangers and depredations unleashed by the war in Ukraine. This is the first time the award has been given to two companies.
While the Russian invasion forced both theatres to close initially, they have recently reopened and started staging world-class productions again. Representatives from both companies accepted the award in person, to a rapturous reception and a long standing ovation from the audience at Teatro Real.
After a 30-hour journey by bus, car and air, Oksana Taranenko, stage director of Odesa Opera and Ballet Theatre, commented: “We are accepting this award for every Ukrainian soul in heaven. We are in a cold dark place trying to do our jobs. We are fully aware that we have become a place of inspiration for the people.
“We have many staff from the company fighting on the front lines or living as refugees: recently we had no sopranos as they are mostly young mothers and had to leave. This great support from the international community will help us to stand up for our people.”
Legendary British mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker was celebrated with the Lifetime Achievement award. From her operatic debut in 1956 to her retirement in 1982, her reputation as one of the greatest British singers was cemented by her acclaimed roles at Glyndebourne and English National Opera, as well as her association with Benjamin Britten, who wrote the cantata Phaedra for her.
Speaking in a video acceptance speech, Dame Janet said: “I look back over those working years and my mind is full of the joy it brought me. I learnt something useful and valuable from all my colleagues, and I miss every one of them so much. I feel tonight is a very special gift to me.
“To the members of the International Opera Awards, to Opera magazine, and to Petroc who spoke so beautifully, there is only the one familiar but heartfelt word – thank you.”
The Opera Magazine Readers’ Award – the only award voted for by the public – was won by Samoan tenor Pene Pati. As well as being a member of popular trio Sol3 Mio, Pati has performed at some of the world’s greatest opera houses and recently released his debut solo album on Warner Classics to critical acclaim.
Accepting the award via video, he said: “What an absolute surprise! Thank you to everyone who voted – what an amazing feeling to know that your singing has touched many people. When you’re from little old Samoa on the other side of the globe, you never quite imagine that your voice will reach this far, so thank you truly from the bottom of my heart and I hope to sing for you in the near future.”
British soprano Nardus Williams was recognised with the Rising Star award. A former English National Opera Harewood artist and Times Breakthrough Award nominee, this accolade further establishes her growing reputation as one of the most exciting British singers of her generation.
The Good Governance Institute Leadership award was given to Nicholas Payne, who has led Opera Europa since 2003 and previously been in charge at English National Opera and the Royal Opera House. The Philanthropy award was given to arts patron Aline Foriel-Destezet for her continued support of music and opera.
Other winners announced on the night included French soprano Sabine Devieilhe (Female Singer), French baritone Stéphane Degout (Male Singer) and Italian Daniele Rustioni (Conductor).
Michael Spyres took the award for Recording (Solo Recital) for BariTenor, a collection of works for both tenor and baritone range, while the award for Recording (Complete Opera) went to the recording of Offenbach’s Le voyage dans le Lune (A Trip to the Moon, 1875) on the Bru Zane label.
Santa Fe Opera was presented with the Villa Conchi International Opera Award for Festival of the Year, sponsored by The Grand Wines. The Sustainability award was won by Gothenburg Opera.
Harry Hyman, founder of the International Opera Awards, commented: “Huge congratulations to all the winners, and to all of the nominees for providing opera lovers across the world with such joy over the past season.
“After three years of not being able to celebrate the International Opera Awards in person, it’s a true joy to be able to come together at the spectacular Teatro Real and celebrate the best of opera across the globe.
“As well as celebrating the past season, it’s also been an opportunity to look towards the future – with the funds raised tonight to support our Opera Awards Foundation bursaries, we can ensure that the next generation of aspiring operatic talent can achieve their goals and enthral audiences for years to come.”
See the International Opera Awards website for a full list of winners.
Representatives from Lviv and Odesa opera companies accept the Opera Company award from John Allison, editor of Opera magazine, at this year’s International Opera Awards.