Opera News Announces Winners of its 2011 Awards

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Opera News, the house publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, has announced the honorees of its seventh annual Opera News Awards. Honors go this year to sopranos Anja Silja and Karita Mattila, baritones Peter Mattei and Dmitri Hvorostovsky and director Peter Sellars. The trophies will be handed out next April at a gala event for the Metropolitan Opera Guild that takes place at the Plaza Hotel.

Described by Opera News editor-in-chief F. Paul Driscoll as a "glorious singer whose thrilling, no-holds-barred commitment to her music makes her a singularly compelling and beloved artist," Mattila has made her mark in recent years with textbook performances as the title characters in Salome and Fidelio, the latter role she reprises this fall at Houston Grand Opera.

Silja, an equally glamorous Berlin-born diva who conquered Europe in the '60s and '70s singing the heroines of Strauss, Berg and Wagner. However, now in her 70s, Silja remains as feisty and busy as ever, continuing to add roles to her repertoire and branching out into other areas of the operatic art form (she made her directorial debut just over 20 years ago with a production of Lohengrin in Brussels).

Equally noteworthy are both Mattei and Hvorostovsky, both who have paired with Mattila as the Prince Yeletsky to her Lisa in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. When it comes to determining great baritones of this generation, both are often mentioned in the same breath with comparisons drawn to their Onegins and Valentins. But with Hvorostovsky ensconced in the Verdi rep and Mattei having equally strong legs in works like Janacek's From the House of the Dead, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Mozart's Don Giovanni, there is clearly room for both singers in the sandbox. (Mattei's recent debut recital disc, incidentally, should be required listening for all this summer.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch is former enfant terrible Peter Sellars. A visionary iconoclast boasting a longstanding history with composers such as John Adams (who won the ON Award in 2008) and works such as his modernizing of the Mozart-DaPonte triptych. It was with this year's Nixon in China that Sellars made his Metropolitan Opera debut, yet his resumes with such institutes as the Mostly Mozart, Salzburg and Glyndebourne festivals (for starters) indicate that this was practically a grace note to what has already been a rich, if not unorthodox, artistic legacy. Revolutionary or not, at some point the fringe moves into the center.

What do you think of the choices? And ultimately purpose do awards serve? Please leave your comments below: