Evening Standard, 23 April 2013
Louise Jury
Our music is for everyone, say stars at new International Opera Awards ceremony
Opera stars who won prizes at a new awards ceremony hailed the "magic" of their art but also warned that funding cuts could endanger the future of London productions.

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann, one of the hottest tickets on the classical stage, said that opera had something for everyone as he picked up two prizes at the first International Opera Awards.

"We need people to understand that it's not an elite thing and not something only for people who have a certain education," he said at the ceremony at the Park Lane Hilton last night.

The 43-year-old German added: "No one has problems buying a ticket for a sports game, no one has a problem going to the movies or a musical. All these things seem to be easier to digest. But that’s not true.

"Go to an opera and you realise how music composed several hundred years ago still brings you to tears — it’s so emotional and so special."

Kaufmann won both the readers' award — voted for by Opera magazine readers — and the male singer award, which was chosen by an expert panel and presented by Sarah Sands, editor of the Evening Standard, which supported the awards.

Kaufmann said both awards were important to him. "You don’t do your performing first of all for the critics, you do it to let the audiences catch fire,"he said. "There’s a rumour that the British are cooler and don’t show their feelings. Anyone who believes that should come to a performance at Covent Garden."

Sir Antonio Pappano, music director of the Royal Opera House, collected two awards, for best conductor and for the DVD of Il Trittico which he conducted.

He said this was "amazingly impressive" because Covent Garden receives "considerably less subsidy" than most European companies and that Britain does not have the tradition of giving to opera that underpins the Met in New York.

"We’re striving to do more with less, but this can’t go on," he warned. "The dip in our arts funding is worrying. We need support."

Sophie Bevan, 29, from Surbiton, beat an international cast of rising stars to be named best young singer and said that she felt "overwhelmed" by the award.

"I’m more a village soprano, a county soprano, than an international soprano," she said. "Now maybe I will start to get more work internationally."

Bevan has sung with English National Opera, Garsington Opera and sings her first main role at the Royal Opera House as Pamina in The Magic Flute next month.

Sopranos Sarah Connolly and the American Joyce DiDonato hailed the importance of celebrating opera, although both were beaten to the female singer award by Swede Nina Stemme. "I’m thrilled to be part of it," said Connolly, while DiDonato said it was good to also celebrate the people behind the scenes.

Littlewoods heir Sir Peter Moores, 81, was honoured for his philanthropy and Sir George Christie won the lifetime achievement award for running the Glyndebourne Opera in Sussex.

Some of the proceeds of the event, which was founded by businessman Harry Hyman with John Allison of Opera magazine, will fund bursaries for aspiring opera talent.


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