It’s Award Season in the Opera World…

Last week, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation announced that its Richard Tucker Award winner would be mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard.

Isabel Leonard is just about as charming and bubbly as it gets. I’ve never seen her live, but from all reports I hear, she’s animated and bouncy onstage and she has a great stage presence. I’ve listened to many live transmissions with her and I can account for her youthful energy and vigor to be palpable through the airwaves. She seems like the complete package for a 21st century opera singer.

Now me being me, I have a gripe. I always have a gripe.

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation honorees have always been young and promising singers on the verge of making it big around the world. In fact, their description of the award is “The Richard Tucker Award is conferred annually upon a single artist who has reached a high level of artistic accomplishment and who, in the opinion of a conferral panel, is on the threshold of a major international career.” With that statement, there’s something that implies that a singer has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked all over the world, doing little things to lead up to bug debuts in big places. The problem I have with them giving the award to Leonard is that she has the massive machine(No, not The Machine) that is The Metropolitan Opera Working behind her. She did a series of Rosinas in 2010, did some more in English this past holiday season as well as The Tempest in October, and huge amounts of Mozart. That’s not all, since she’s scheduled as Blanche de la Force in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites in May. She’s obviously an artist heavily utilized by the Met, and for good reason. She is exactly the type of since the Met is trying to market to the new audiences of opera. But doesn’t Isabel Leonard already have such an established career at the Metropolitan Opera? The list of places she has sung go on and on like the Opera Nationale de Paris and the Bayerische Staatsoper. Isabel Leonard is no stranger to the world of international opera, and since most houses utilize a five year casting system, she’s probably booked in many other places as well. In fact, much of the press she’ll receive from opera companies from the Tucker award probably won’t show until three years from now at the earliest.

I’m confused by this choice because while Leonard is both a deserving and charming singer, there are many other singers of her caliber of artistry that are still working around in smaller houses, waiting for an international debut. These are the singers I thought the Tucker Gala picked.

An example that comes immediately to mind is soprano Jennifer Rowley. The American soprano has sung Musetta in Norway(With the famous Stefan Herheim production) and was recently called in as a replacement in Robert le Diable at ROH. Unfortunately, due to conflicts, she wasn’t able to perform in it. Shouldn’t singers like Jennifer Rowley be getting this extra push? Aren’t singers like Jennifer Rowley the ones who need this extra publicity? This is where I find fault in this year’s choice.

Also, the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition is happening with its finale in June. My personal favorite to win is Jamie Barton, the powerhouse mezzo from the U.S.  ut we’ll have to see how the competition progresses.

I’m writing this piece as the opera twitter powers that be tweet gaily of the “Opera News Awards”, a night organized by the Met Opera Guild, who owns Opera News, where they give out some awards to people in the opera field. Which people, you may ask? None in particular, I reply.

The fault I find in the “Opera News Awards” is that they really don’t serve a purpose beyond the joy the person who is receiving it feels. They carry no specific connotation and don’t make an operatic community member more distinguished in any way. It’s really just a fancy dinner and party with many opera greats. Would you pay extra money to see a singer who won an “Opera News Award”?

Now, if these awards had a clear goal that was expressed not only through their nominees, but also through their mission statement, I would be more at peace. However, each year, they pick five different people in the opera world and celebrate the “distinguished achievements” that has made that person a mover, a shaker, or a life time achiever in this community. This wouldn’t be a problem for me, but each year the choices of winners are erratic and not cohesive.

Image Property of Opera News

Take this year’s nominee, Eric Owens for example. Owens is currently singing Alberich in the Met’s Rheingold and has been a fixture of the company for past seasons. At 42, the bass-baritone is debatably in his prime, and if all goes as planned with singers, he should still have another 20-30 years left on the operatic stage. With that much time left, anything can happen. How do we know that his contributions to the field of opera are lasting or memorable when not even the singer himself has had the opportunity to stand the test of time? It feels like we are celebrating a career, be it a sparkling and promising one, a little too prematurely.

At the same time, the award is being given this year to Mirella Freni(my favorite Desdemona). Shouldn’t a singer like Freni, who’s already retired and been a household name for the last 40+ years, be honored specially? What about Peter Sellars, the director who won in 2011 after only directing two productions at the Metropolitan Opera? Is this event about the overall field of opera or just about the Met? There’s no way of knowing since they never really tell us what their motives are. Maybe if the awards were divided up into categories, then we would be better able to navigate the winners.

Finally, tomorrow marks the first annual Opera Awards in London. The awards are for “Promoting excellence in opera and providing funding through The Opera Foundation for the operatic community”. It seems like a noble pursuit, and I wish them the best at their gala event tomorrow.

I love a good celebration as much as the next guy, especially when it’s a celebration of great art. However, I would like to know what great art I’m celebrating first.

There, you have my musings and complaints du jour. What these competitions and contests really boil down to, is celebrating great opera, and when opera’s really great, it deserves a celebration.


76 comments on “It’s Award Season in the Opera World…

  1. NO!!NON IN INGLESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9czZDxVCypw (some ballet first,for some reason.)
    I know both Angela Meade and Sondra Radvanovsky. I hope neither falls ill next season in the Normas..because guess who is the cover>>>>>>and the Italian diction is really the greatest.

  3. 35 yrs.ago,I almost fell out of the City Opera balcony, upon hearing Diana Soviero.. I still think she surpasses most of the singers we know well for emotion,coupled with voice…This is a ten Pavarotti towel scene. We have been close ever since, and the more I see her material,the more I am convinced i was right.(Well,Tebaldi once kissed her when she was little..and that didn’t hurt.)

  4. They finally threw us OUT!!!! In the 1960’s (or was it 1860’s??) we came upon this opera co.rung by Mme.Josephine LaPuma (mother of famous Met coach Alberta Masiello.).We tried to stay,even with hankies over our faces..until one night, at a Don Giovanni..we lost it..and we never could go back…they had not yet invented DEPENDS!!!! Anyone on this forum who would be at such a show would not make it!!!!! BUT…they loved to sing!!! Boy, do I have stories!!!!!

  5. The Met has soi many illnesses..tenors leaving the stage in the middle of Act One Walkure..etc…therefore…Gelb hired a great cover;

  6. My all-time Corelli moment..the “EH” vowel on the high C on RE-eeeeendero”..I go nuts..like the Scala audience….

  7. If you ever saw the MIRACLE Nilsson live, you would need oxygen..No recording can duplicate was it was like LIVE…Bless her!!

  8. My darling “adopted sister” Virginia Zeani in a fabulous rendition of Magda’s aria from Menotti’s “The Consul.” Use of low voice UNMATCHED by anyone…..THIS is what singing with emotion is about..mostly lost these days…

  9. The “Queen of the Pirates,”Leyla Gencer was beloved by so many……We had a party for her after her 1972 Attila in New Jersey(October)..The funny thing is that my friend took all the other divas’ photos down and had only Leyla. New Years Eve..in walks Kabaiwanska,looks at the walls,and exclaims, “Is this a SHRINE???” We cracked up.. Leyla’s chest voice is legendary…and some scoooooops are a bit campy..but what a lady!!!!!

  10. In case anyone never heard this..Caballe’s final B holds the record for longest held B EVER!!!!!!!!!

  11. The Lombardi under Eve Queler proved to be the HIT of the music season. Michael Fabiano,Angela Meade,and Kevin Short brought down the house at Philharmonic hall!!! We screamed all night!!!!!!

  12. In 1956 Bergonzi and Stella made their Met debuts in Aida..All these years,I have wanted to tell Stella I STILL see and hear her.(I almost gave up Zinka.)Her cousin gave me her address and i just wrote to her in the Italian i learned from Puccini and bellini…Look at this great clip!!!!!!!

  13. I like innovations..but to DESTROY Nabucco is a disgrace!!!!!!!!!

  14. Get HIGH only from this stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. When Rudolf Bing retired in 1972, the Met a special gala for him. A hit of the show was Regina Resnik, dressed as Orlovsky, doing a take-off on his career. It was a RIOT!!!!!!
    Shortly after, I sent her a “Chacun a Resnik’s gout’ with my own words…..

  16. We did a Bel (MAL??) Canto concert years ago at a store where they sold pianos and clocks..TIME TO QUIT..Sue Hassel let out a GESCHREI..I did not know what it was since I was backstage ready to go on.. When I saw the tape, I gave up Joan Sutherland. I suggest before you see this you do not eat or anything..and send the pets out of the room….

  17. IN KEY (B’s rather than B flats)..NOTHING resembles this today…I should know…I was there!!!!!

  18. Error….I thought this was another clip..but this is not bad either…

  19. This is what i intended to put up..LORD!!!!!!

  20. OPERATEEN!!! Do not try this..even in the shower..the tiles would break!!!!!!

  21. The two great Tape PIRATES Ed Rosen and yours truly in Puritani duet..He always blasts that last note!!!!!!

  22. Roles for this dummy: Boris:The Simpleton Butterfly:Trouble (lately,a lot of it), Met new Rigoletto; The Pole Dancer Salome; The cistern (heads up!), Tosca: E Avanti a LOUIE

  23. Hey Operateen,

    Thanks for the post on the awards. They usually leave me scratching my head too, I think what the organization wants is someone who has a track record but not too much of one. One the one hand, it wouldn’t do to give the award to someone who then doesn’t pan out, but I agree with you that Isabel Leonard is probably a little too far along to qualify. Since the Met was Tucker’s home base it makes sense for the award to go to someone who has sung there. I suppose they are trying to stretch it a bit and say that he or she should have sung a leading role, since Tucker debuted in a leading role. And it’s for American singers, so I guess that left Isabel Leonard since she’s still young in singer years.

  24. When we rehearsed Bolena I would look down her throat to try to see where those notes came from…… We go back almost 50 years!!!!!

  25. I forgot to say it is Marisa Galvany..one of her many names.

  26. Gelb would hate this….That is why the Met just cannot hire this kind of singer……..

    BEST is POLIUTO..”Reeeeeeendero”.The “e” vowel makes it so great on the C.

  27. NEVER stop laughing..50 years later!!!!!!!!

  28. NO OPERA FORUM is complete without the greatest single note I ever heard live.In the Met,we just flipped out.I have probably heard this 1000 times and it never ceases to amaze me.

  29. My new DIVA..I discovered Kristine Opolais in the Rondine this season, and she turned out to be one of the finest divas i have ever heard. She does Mme.Butterfly at the Met next season. Here is a sample.

  30. I collect EVERY RING!!!! This Gotterdamerung finale from Valencia under Mehta..is a THRILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Does not get published..Go to youtube Mehta Gotterdamerung Finale Valencia………

  32. It was not until I saw the tape,that I cracked up at Sue’s E Flattttttt. I was the King (far left) and was so busy with my low E flat…I never realized the nutcase was trying to be Callas…..

  33. Another gorgeous version of the Edgar aria..by Latonia Moore(Chavonne).She did this at Carnegie when they did the whole opera and she brought down the house….The Met used her for the one Aida…why not hire her??????

  34. FIRST TIME Marisa Galvany sang this Attila music..acc.Armen Boyajian…..Photo is of her and her daughter Sally…who is now a mommy! We go back 45 years!!!!!!

  35. Happy no.83,Roberta Peters….Listen to her Gilda E flat in this compilation..No one since has done this..It was WILD in the house…..

  36. WOW!!! Would we ever have felt that Netrebko, an “Adina” could rise to this level…WOW!!!!~ Marvelous!!!!!!! What is next..Turandot?????????

  37. Anyone who is not into this….go back to Justin Bieber………

  38. NOISY BROADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. When Leontyne sang without those crazy mannerisms..it was FABULOUS!!!!!

  40. One of the most AMAZING clip…90 year old very famous Mark Reizen as Gremin!!!!!

  41. Do NOT imitate this because all the little animals in the neighborhood will come..They can hear a high J#… Erna Sack….

  42. Lost forever is this kind of singing..Gelb would object…NOTHING beats Leonie’s GESCHREI!!!!!!!!

  43. Of all the singers i have ever known..NO ONE has felt so much like “family” as darling Virginia Zeani, whonm I love so much, and who,in my opinion, belongs way up there with the greats!!!!!

  44. The only one thing that is positive about dear genius George Gershwin not living long, is that he would not have to endure what Mari does to his beautiful song….and those wonderful “jazzy’ interpolations..Leontyne, bet you are jealous!!!!!

  45. Do not try this at home..well..maybe one or two of you…but warn mommy first….

  46. NOT ONE SINGER TODAY could match this style of singing..for depth of emotion…….WHY????????

  47. Sam Ramey and i go back 45 years,when we sng together in Hoffmann,Bolena,Barbiere…He is one of the greats in opera…..

  48. If I had but a penny for all the times,live and in person,I heard THE NOTE..I would be rich..Zinka Milanov, born May 17, 1906.My all-time favorite singer.

  49. The Gods were GOOD on May 17, for the birthday of Zinka Milanov in 1906, and another miracle in 1918,Birgit Nilsson,who loved jokes as you see here.

  50. May 17..the birthday of the great Polish tenor,Jan Kiepura, and the birthday of the marvelous Richard Tauber. A coincidence, because Piotr Beczala just recorded a Tauber tribute album and he is the next great Polish tenor…..

  51. Too exciting for the Met!! We go back 45 years..Still one of the GREATS!!!!!!!!!

  52. For the May 17 birthday of the miracle of miracles…You can turn her recordings UP..but NOTHING compared to what we saw LIVE…….

  53. May 22, 1813..200 yrs.ago..Richard Wagner was born…Here is an example of his incredible genius..My life would not have been as rich without him….

  54. ERRRRRRROR!! Let us try it again!!!!!!

  55. I was there..a glorious evening…….

  56. Happy 200th Birthday to Richard Wagner..Here is something that in 1960 made us all NUTS!!!!!!!!

  57. A bunch of NUTCASES at Ed Rosen’s house…Have fun with opera!!!life is short!!!!!

  58. What happened>>I do exist!!!!!!

    will try once more…..

  59. Tying once more..we shall see……

  60. How to SUM UP the career of Beverly Sills, born May 25, 1929. Listen to the DOUBLE ATTACK on the final high D!!! That tells it all!!!!!!!!!!

  61. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  62. All you young divas out there..Here is a perfect lesson in breathing technique, Italian diction, and OI VEY!!!!

  63. Listen….when you reach 80…can you imagine doing this??????

  64. May 30,1919 Birth of sensational artist, George London

  65. My dear Piotr Beczala’s new album, a tribute to the great Richard Tauber is now available. I heartily recommend it.Tauber would be so proud to have his songs sung by Piotr, one of the great singers of today and a dear, sweet guy.

  66. Go to Youtube fior the Piotr Beczala, “Heart’s delight” album preview..For some reason,it will not load here.

  67. I was there at City opera as Ashley Putnam made her Violetta debut. We never found out why this lady did this…but it was amazing..Poor tenor Henry Price…he still went on…It is insane!!!

  68. I spoke today to the 83 year old Magda..This is at 83..a MIRACLE!

  69. Happy birthday to my dear fried Marisa Galvany (June 19)..One of the most exciting singers I ever heard (and sang with.)

  70. i just SKYPED Puccini…He said…well,I know this is a family board…but I did
    learn some new words…….

  71. We were SCARED when Tebaldi SHOOK THE WALLS of the Met on “Maledizione.”NO ONE could imagine what that was like!!!!!!!!!!!

  72. http://www.handelmania.com/mad.htm

    guess all the Tosca screams correctly and Opera teen and i will come to your house and sing Mira o Norma in the HIGH KEY…if you have animals..better warn them…..

  73. Scotto,Soviero, ZEANI here…are the only sopranos in recent years to sing “SGELO” the way your heart will break…Today..no one knows what I am talking about….

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