On Monday, the first International Opera Awards debut at London’s Hilton Park Lane. For an art form that has always honored its own, at both private galas or in elaborate competitions, this Oscar-like event seems to have been a long time coming (though no sign yet of Joan Rivers). We’ll see whether the forthcoming "Operas" eclipse some of the prestigious honors already out there for live performance, such as these following five:
1. BBC Cardiff Singer of the World
As one could glean from its title, the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World attempts to anoint the top international vocalist through a series of auditions and preliminary concerts held every two years. Whereas the Opera Awards divide the best singer categories into male and female, Cardiff crowns only one King. The victor walks away with £15,000, opportunities to perform on the BBC and with the Welsh National Opera, and knowing that they could follow the footsteps of Karita Mattila and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. The 2013 field of 20 finalists has already been chosen.
2. Richard Tucker Award
The mission of the Richard Tucker Award is to help a young American Opera star become an established one by giving him or her $30,000 and a solo recital. And with a track record that includes Aprile Millo, Dolora Zajick, Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe and David Daniels among previous winners, it seems to be realizing that goal. This year’s winner was the mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard.
3. Operalia Competition
Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition confers one of the richest prizes in the opera world, weeding out a rising star from more than 1,000 hopefuls between 18 and 32 years old. The winner pockets $30,000 and “a commited interest in the[ir] career development” from Plácido, himself. That personal promise has helped previous winners like Nina Stemme, Erwin Schrott and Pretty Yende.
4. The Met's National Council Auditions
The Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions is the largest talent search for opera singers in the United States. Applicants, who only need to prove one year of residency in this country, must pass district, regional, and semi-final heats before they can sing on the Met stage for the grand prize: $15,000 and a ton of exposure. The 2007 crop of finalists were even subject of a PBS-aired documentary, The Audition.
5. Opera News Awards
There are plenty of awards for recorded operas, but few for live performance. The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Opera News Awards acknowledges contributions on the stage. The magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, F. Paul Driscoll, has called the night “The closest thing we have to a SAG award.” Each year, five luminaries from all areas of the opera house are honored. This year’s recipients, who were feted on April 21, are Mirella Freni, David Daniels, Dawn Upshaw, Simon Keenlyside, and Eric Owens.