What We Learned at the Opera News Awards

By Francisco Salazar

The 12th annual OPERA NEWS Awards were handed out on April 9 at the Plaza Hotel.

The operatic community gathered together to honor Robert Carsen, Matthew Polenzani, Christine Goerke, Yannick Nézet-Seguin and Frederica Von Stade. Several expected guests including Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, James Conlon and Nézet-Seguin however, were not in attendance. However, there was a surprise guest, Renée Fleming, who introduced Robert Carsen.

The awards ceremony was business as usual with some very moving speeches that showed another side to the incredible artists being honored. So what did we learn?

Matthew Polezani

Perhaps one of the most revered artists of his generation had a moving speech where he thanked his wife for all the support and even provided some very wise advice for young artists. He told them that sometimes it is better to refuse an offer from the Met. He went back to his early years where he rejected an offer at the Met and instead decided to sing at Portland Opera. For him, it was more important to move at a slow pace to maintain a steady career.

Robert Carsen 

The esteemed director revealed that he had an English accent due to a speech impediment and thanked his parents for their support. He also revealed that it was Fleming who was the reasoning behind his new production because she wanted him to direct what would be her first new production of the Marschallin. He also said the cast of his new “Der Rosenkavalier” has been a wonderful experience.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

While he was not at the ceremony Elina Garanca joked about the amount of work he has and whether he had time to sleep. She also spoke about the fact that Nézet-Séguin clearly loved singers as he always brought joy and was secure enough to encourage singers to give their opinions. She also compared him to a squid as he is a conductor who takes in everything and is very detail-oriented. Garanca also spoke about his early career as he founded an orchestra and was mentored by Carlo Maria Giulini. However, she revealed that she has not worked with him since 2010 when she did Bizet’s “Carmen.”

Christine Goerke

Goerke gave an emotional speech where she spoke about her early vocal crisis and thanked Opera News for giving her a platform to speak about her crisis. Goerke spoke about her upbringing and her difficult moments before thanking all her management team. She thanked arts donors and patrons for helping support opera in a time when the NEA could be decimated. The soprano also went light as she joked about meeting her husband online and how hard it was to find a straight husband in the opera industry.

Frederica Von Stade

The legendary mezzo was introduced by Kiri Te Kanawa and with clips of her signature role Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.” The mezzo thanked all her colleagues and the Metropolitan Opera for allowing her to work with Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli, and Luciano Pavarotti. She also thanked Te Kanawa, who is one of her best friends. She reminisced about preparing to sing for Te Kanawa’s daughter with her dogs and then thanked her husband Jimmy and Opera News Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll.