OPERA NEWS Honors Five Great Opera Figures

By Francisco Salazar

The 14th annual OPERA NEWS Awards were held on April 7, 2019, with a star-studded gala that honored five major figures of the opera world.

The evening began with a cocktail hour before guests and honorees were brought to the main hall of the Plaza Hall to get the ceremony underway. OPERA NEWS editor F. Paul Driscoll kicked off the proceedings by introducing Anthony Roth Costanzo and noting that the famed countertenor had arrived at the hotel via bicyle.

The countertenor presented Ailyn Perez with her award. During the soprano’s speech, Perez thanked her parents in Spanish as well as her educators and the OPERA NEWS magazine for their work in promoting opera.

Then Joyce DiDonato introduced Laurent Pelly telling the story of the famed director and his introduction to opera before showing clips of the director’s “La Fille du Régiment, “Manon,” “Cendrillon,” and “Les Contes d’Hoffmann.” The director received his award giving a speech in French and praising the opera and theater world.

Thomas Hampson was up next and he delivered an emotional and hilarious speech about his colleague and son-in-law Luca Pisaroni. He spoke about the bass-baritone’s work in Mozart, meeting his daughter and creating a family with him. When Pisaroni received his award from Hampson, the bass-baritone thanked his wife Catherine Pisaroni and spoke about the importance of music education. He reminisced about his love for opera as a young boy and joked about not being very popular throughout his school years.

Susanna Phillips introduced Ramon Vargas with his award, speaking about the first time she met him and working with him in “La Bohème.” After showing a clip from “La Cenerentola,” Vargas received his award and thanked his wife and children, as well as Plácido Domingo.

Betsy Wolfe than made a special appearance, performing three Broadway tunes and reminiscing about her Metropolitan Opera debut.

The award ceremony came to close with Joseph Volpe presenting Rosalind Elias with her award. The mezzo-soprano began her speech talking about an infamous incident during rehearsals of “La Fille du Régiment” before clarifying that she is not 90 years old (she’s 88). She capped off her hilarious but moving speech by talking about her experience in Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” and how she convinced the composer to write the famed aria “Must the winter come soon.”  Her final message to all young singers was “Go for it,” receiving a standing ovation.

Among the attendees at the gala were such opera stars as Plácido Domingo, Harolyn Blackwell, Teresa Stratas, Martina Arroyo, Matthew Polenzani, Christian van Horn. Tomasz Konieczny, Isabel Leonard, Christine Goerke, Samantha Hankey, Adam Plachetka, Serena Malfi, Elza van den Heever, Greer Grimsley, Amanda Woodbury, Tamara Mumford, and Gabriella Reyes.