OPERA NEWS Awards’ 5 Honorees Weigh In On Importance of Recognition

By David Salazar

It’s always fun to receive awards. And all five of the major honorees of the OPERA NEWS Awards were beaming on Sunday afternoon, April 23, 2018, during the gala event at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.

For the past 13 years, the famed opera magazine has given out accolades to five opera powerhouses.

“We always look at a mix of opera’s past, present, and future. We look to people who are part of our shared memory of opera. People who are active today and people who have accomplished a lot and are still at the top of their game,” F. Paul Driscoll, the Editor-in-Chief of Opera News, told OperaWire at the black-tie ceremony.

He noted that this year’s crop features current superstars Sonya Yoncheva and tenor Vittorio Grigolo while the artists that have managed major accomplishments over a lengthy career included Sir William Christie and soprano Hei-Kyung Hong. Finally, for the artist of opera’s past and “shared memory,” Fiorenza Cossotto was the selection.

“It doesn’t get more legendary than that,” he noted with a beaming smile.

During the brief chat at the crowded cocktail hour, Driscoll added that even though the selection process has been established for over a decade, it isn’t always easy.

“We all sit in a room and argue about it for like a day,” he noted. “Then we have to worry about scheduling and timing. Someone like Cossotto can fly from Italy easily, but someone like Yoncheva was supposed to fly home [Sunday] but extended her stay so she could be with us tonight. So, there is a ton that goes into planning this to ensure we can have a successful night.”

Different Views on Recognition

“Successful evening” is certainly what they wound up with and in speaking with the honorees, it was clear they were all thrilled about the opportunity to be distinguished. Most fascinating of all was how they all experienced the honor differently.

For both Yoncheva and Grigolo, both international stars in the prime of their careers, the accolade was a moment of support before continuing the “battle,” as Grigolo aptly put it.

“It proves that other people see now what I have known for 20 years. What I have been fighting for 20 years, battling for 20 years, people are now seeing it. That’s what this prize is,” Grigolo noted.

“I am at the end of these three amazing productions here at the Met and this award is like a recognition for me,” added Yoncheva, who recently sang “Tosca,” “La Bohème” and “Luisa Miller” at the Met. Yoncheva, who sang “Luisa Miller” on Saturday, April 21, admitted that it would be her “first and last production of the opera.”

For Hong, the award was a culmination of a lengthy Met career and she even noted during her acceptance speech that she had been dreaming of the award for years.

“I have been singing at the Met for 33 years and the opera guild has been so lovely and supportive to my career. I should be honoring them. It is really the cherry on the top of my career,” Hong told OperaWire.

Christie was more pragmatic in his response, noting that “everybody likes to have recognition at one point in their lives,” but putting an emphasis on the organizations that have helped him build his career, particularly in New York. “I’ve had wonderful experiences with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Juilliard School, and the Met. Unforgettable ones.”

Finally, for Cossotto, who was celebrating her 83rd birthday, the award is a return home.

“It’s the recognition of so much sacrifice all the joys and pleasures of singing in New York. It brings me back to the days when I sang at the Met, which was so special for my career,” she told OperaWire.