– The Oscars of the Opera World –
The end of the annual opera season means the beginning of summer opera festivals. But before we get to those, it’s time for opera galas. I had the pleasure of attending the Opera News Awards for the second time this past Spring and it was a treat. This event has it all – stars, food, wine, music, awards and above all, a good cause, which is the funding of The Metropolitan Opera Guild Education programs. It all goes down at The Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, as glamorous as you can get. And of course, I loved every minute of it.
It all begins at cocktail hour, when everyone attending the event gets to mingle and take LOTS of photos. Star photographer Dario Acosta and his team are ready to catch every possible combination of group photos, and of course, each of the awardees signing the cover of Opera News, a tradition at cocktail hour. I got a chance to catch up with Jennifer Rowley, the diva who is taking the opera world by storm with her signature roles of Tosca and Leonora. This season was incredibly exciting for her, full of jump-ins that had us all on our toes. She looked stunning, as always, and was one of the main attractions when she hit the “red carpet”. A moment that warmed my heart was when Plácido Domingo joined Jennifer and Lindemann Young Artists Rihab Chaieb and Hyesang Park for a photo and replaced your typical “cheese” by saying “the future of opera!” – you bet it is, and it looks and sounds fabulous!
The ceremony itself is set up around a three-course dinner during which there is a very exciting live auction (a cover of Opera News shot by Dario Acosta and styled by Affan Malik went for $10000), the awardees receive their prizes, give their speeches and there is also a musical number. This year, Stephanie Blythe sang jazz standards and brought the house down. It was just incredible! If you are curious, you can find the videos on @360ofopera on Instagram and Facebook. As far as the awardees, two speeches stood out for me, Sonya Yoncheva’s and Vittorio Grigolo’s. Sonya Yoncheva was very thankful for the honor and grateful to her mother who was in attendance: “It is a huge honor to share this award with you. It is very emotional to see one’s story and where you came from. I want to thank my mother who is here, she is a lion. She gave us this salt and pepper for life so we could build the character for life and our careers.”
As a young artist, it is always interesting to me to learn about other artists’ career paths because every single one of them is very unique, especially in such an international environment as the world of opera. I think in a world where we are often told that if we don’t follow certain “rules” there is no way we will achieve certain milestones, it is important to be curious and observe how varied people’s paths can be and how following the “standard” path is not necessarily the answer to what we are looking for. Talking about uniqueness, Vittorio Grigolo addressed his “bad boy” fame during his speech and made very good points : “Maybe that uncertainty that you talk about on stage is because I don’t want to arrive from point A to point B straight, I want to arrive with a little bit of a slalom. But that slalom is what I call art. […] I want to make it (a given bar of music) mine so that I can give it you the way I want to give it you. I want to give a bit of myself to you every time.” Overall, it was a very inspiring evening and one of the biggest highlights of the night was when everyone joined in song to celebrate legend Fiorenza Cossotto’s birthday.
In addition to having a fabulous night, I met Melanie Spector, who was taking over the Opera News Instagram account for the night (and did a fantastic job by the way!). Melanie is a young coloratura soprano and 360° of Opera’s brand new editor! She is a wonderful addition to the team and I am so thankful for everything she brings to the table. We will be singing together this summer at IVAI in Montréal and I look forward to all of our operatic adventures together on and off the stage. Melanie will be a senior at MSM this Fall, is a regular panelist at Met Opera Radio and was part of The Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus for many years. You can follow her adventures on social media at @msoperageek & @360ofopera. And now… let the summer begin!