LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) - German bass-baritone Christian Gerhaher and his compatriot soprano Anja Harteros were named the top male and female singers respectively at the International Opera Awards on Sunday.
Berlin’s Komische Oper won the award for best opera company while the Bregenz Festival, held in a small town on the shores of Lake Constance in Austria, was named the best festival.
Neither Gerhaher nor Harteros was on hand to accept their awards at a gala held in London’s Savoy Theatre, but David Pountney, the British general director of the Bregenz Festival, said the event should serve as a lesson that the arts can be good for business.
“I’d just like to say that Bregenz is a little town of 28,000 people which has created a festival that attracts over 200,000 people a year and brings in 160 million euros ($170 million) every year into that region,” Pountney said as he accepted the award.
“That is a model that our politicians would do well to study: great art can be great economics.”
The award for best new opera production went to the Birmingham Opera Company for its staging of “Khovanskygate”, an adaptation of the Russian composer Mussorgsky’s rarely heard “Khovanshchina”.
Graham Vick, the artistic director of Birmingham Opera, said the production had proved that opera could attract a younger audience, and more diverse participation, than is generally thought to be the case.
“Our average audience is under 40 and ‘Khovanskygate’ had 200 volunteer participants whose average age was 28, and 50 percent of them were black or of mixed ethnicity,” Vick said.
“If we’re talking about the future (of opera), that’s what we need to talk about,” he said.
Russian-born conductor Semyon Bychkov won the award for best conductor while Britain’s Richard Jones took the award for best director.
The Opera Magazine readers’ awards for best singers went to German tenor Jonas Kaufmann and Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak.
Speight Jenkins, general director of the Seattle Opera from 1983 to 2014, was given a lifetime achievement award. ($1 = 0.9206 euros) (Editing by Kevin Liffey)