Press Room

2012 Opera News Awards honorees announced

The editors of Opera News are pleased to announce the honorees for the 2012 Opera News Awards, paying tribute to five superb artists who have made an invaluable contribution to the art form: sopranos Mirella Freni and Dawn Upshaw, countertenor David Daniels, baritone Simon Keenlyside, and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The eighth annual Opera News Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 21 at The Plaza in New York City. All the winners – and a host of the city’s cultural, civic, and social luminaries – will be present at the gala awards dinner, which will feature celebrity presenters speaking about the awardees and introducing video performance clips.
The official announcement of this year’s honorees appears in the September 2012 issue of Opera News, which is available on August 6 and has Piotr Beczala on the cover. The Polish tenor performs this season at the Metropolitan Opera in Gounod’s Faust – his company role debut as the opera’s title character – and in a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The September issue also offers the magazine’s annual preview of the year in opera. The April 2012 issue of Opera News will contain tributes to the five awardees, all distinguished members of the international opera community.
Created in 2005, the Opera News Awards recognize five individuals each year for distinguished achievement in the field of opera. Proceeds from the gala evening on April 21 will benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
For the third consecutive season, the Opera News Awards includes a special sweepstakes that will give a lucky winner round-trip air transportation for two to New York, provided by American Airlines, as well as a two-night stay at Trump International Hotel and Tower and VIP tickets to the Opera News Awards. No purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes; details are available at and in the September issue.
The editors of the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Opera News have offered brief pre-publication accolades to this year’s award recipients. Online Editor Adam Wasserman salutes Mr. Daniels:
David Daniels has established himself as more than a superbly elegant singer and an incisive actor; he is a trailblazer, who has redefined the emotional and musical range achievable by the male voice for both opera audiences and his fellow singers.”
Editor in Chief F. Paul Driscoll pays tribute to Ms. Freni:
Mirella Freni’s beauty, charm and poise – and the unfailing loveliness of her voice – made her one of opera’s most beloved sopranos during an active singing career of more than fifty years. She remains prima donna assoluta in the hearts of opera lovers everywhere.”
Features Editor Brian Kellow applauds Mr. Keenlyside:
Simon Keenlyside seems incapable of making a false move onstage. Not only does he have one of the most expressive baritone voices I’ve ever heard, he always seems to be completely in the moment dramatically. His work is never flashy, but it has an inner fire that few performers can match.”
Managing Editor Oussama Zahr extols the gifts of Mr. Owens:
“Bass-baritone Eric Owens has a soulful, capacious voice that he uses to imbue some of opera’s most mysterious and villainous characters with startling humanity. Everything he sings glows with his integrity as an artist.”
Senior Editor Louise Guinther praises Ms. Upshaw:
Dawn Upshaw represents the highest ideals of pristine musicianship, intellectual curiosity, and artistic integrity. She brings a blend of all-American earnestness and instinctive passion to everything she does: Dawn Upshaw opens not only the ears of her audiences but their hearts and minds as well.”
Commenting further about the winners of the seventh annual Opera News Awards, Driscoll notes: “All five of this year’s honorees are blessed with the artistic integrity and expressive generosity that inspire everyone who cares about the art form. The editors of Opera News could not be more pleased to celebrate their extraordinary achievements, and look forward with the greatest enthusiasm to welcoming them to the Opera News Awards gala on April 21.”
Beyond offering the opportunity to pay tribute to the distinguished achievement of some of the leading artists of our time, the Opera News Awards gala dinner has become an important and much-anticipated date on the opera community’s calendar: a time for singers, artistic administrators, and managers – as well as social and political leaders who support opera – to come together in a spirit of camaraderie and celebration.
American Airlines and Trump International Hotel and Tower are the presenting sponsors for the Opera News Awards sweepstakes.
Opera News has been published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild since 1936; it has the largest circulation of any classical music magazine in the United States. The magazine, published monthly, is a winner of three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music journalism.
Previous Opera News Awards honorees:
2005: James Conlon, Régine Crespin, Plácido Domingo, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick 
2006: Ben Heppner, James Levine, René Pape, Renata Scotto, Deborah Voigt
2007: Olga Borodina, Stephanie Blythe, Thomas Hampson, Leontyne Price, Julius Rudel
2008: John Adams, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes  
2009: Martina Arroyo, Joyce DiDonato, Gerald Finley, Philip Glass, Shirley Verrett
2010: Jonas Kaufmann, Riccardo Muti, Patricia Racette, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Bryn Terfel 
2011: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Peter Mattei, Karita Mattila, Anja Silja, Peter Sellars
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Opera News Awards: honoree bios
A native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, David Daniels has been called “today’s gold standard among countertenors.” After studying as a tenor, while he was an undergraduate at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Mr. Daniels made the switch to the countertenor repertory during his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. In North America, Mr. Daniels has redefined the countertenor voice category with well-received appearances at Glimmerglass, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, and at the Met. Notable European appearances for Mr. Daniels include Didymus in Handel’s Theodora at Glyndebourne; the title role in Handel’s Orlando at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Arsace in Partenope at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien; Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Milan and Barcelona; and Farnace in Mozart’s Mitridate at Covent Garden.
Mr. Daniels made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1999 as Serse in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. He has since returned to the Met as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Cesare in Giulio Cesare; Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda; Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice; and as Prospero in the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, the Met’s Baroque pasticcio, which was transmitted to movie screens worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD. Mr. Daniels returns to the Met this season as Cesare in the company premiere of David McVicar’s staging of Giulio Cesare.
A much-admired recitalist, Mr. Daniels has appeared in recital and in concert in New York, Vienna, London, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Chicago, and Washington, DC, as well as at the Edinburgh, Tanglewood, and Ravinia Festivals. In 2002, Mr. Daniels made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall.
Mirella Freni made her professional debut in 1955 as Micaela in Carmen, in her hometown of Modena, Italy. In 1963, La Scala welcomed her as Nannetta in Falstaff. The following year, Ms. Freni was hailed as one the greatest Mimìs in history when she sang in a new La Scala staging of La Bohème, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Mimì was also her debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1965, and at San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Houston Grand Opera. Her subsequent roles at the Met included Adina, Susanna, Alice Ford, Liù, Elisabetta di Valois, Micaela, Gounod’s Juliette and Marguerite, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, and the title roles in Manon Lescaut, Adriana Lecouvreur, and Fedora. In May 2005, the Metropolitan Opera celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Ms. Freni’s professional debut, as well as the fortieth anniversary of her company debut, with a special gala.
Ms. Freni has appeared at the world’s most important opera centers, including the Vienna State Opera – where she was given the title of “Kammersängerin” by the Austrian government – and the Salzburg Festival, where Karajan cast her as Desdemona in his historic 1970 production of Otello. She has also given triumphant performances at the Paris Opera, Covent Garden, the Liceu in Barcelona, and the Glyndebourne Festival.
A treasured colleague of the world’s great maestros, Ms. Freni has collaborated in opera and on recordings with James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Carlo Maria Giulini, Charles Mackerras, Carlos Kleiber, and Georges Prêtre, as well as with Karajan, who was perhaps the most profound influence on her career. Many of her performances are available on DVD, including live Metropolitan Opera telecasts of Don Carlo and Fedora. Ms. Freni remains active, conducting master classes in Europe, North America, and Asia. She has conducted a series of classes for the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program.
London-born baritone Simon Keenlyside made his opera debut in 1988 at the Hamburg State Opera, starring as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro. He has since sung in Geneva, Zurich, Barcelona, Madrid, San Francisco, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Munich, Tokyo, and Salzburg; also at La Scala, Glyndebourne, Scottish Opera, English National Opera, and Covent Garden, where he created the roles of Winston in Lorin Maazel’s 1984 and Prospero in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest. Mr. Keenlyside sings Prospero this season in a new Robert Lepage production of The Tempest at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has been an audience favorite since his company debut, as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, in 1996. Recent Met engagements include the title role in a new production of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, and Posa in the Met premiere of Nicholas Hytner’s staging of Don Carlo, both in 2010. For his performances in Billy Budd at ENO and 1984 at Covent Garden, Mr. Keenlyside won the 2006 Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in Opera. In 2007 he was given the ECHO Klassik award for Male Singer of the Year, and in 2011 he was honored with Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year Award. In the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Mr. Keenlyside was made a CBE in recognition of his services to music.
Mr. Keenlyside also enjoys extensive concert and recital work and appears regularly in most of the world’s major recital venues. His talent is showcased on five volumes of Hyperion Records’s complete Franz Schubert Edition, as well as on the second volume of Hyperion’s complete Robert Schumann Edition, all with pianist Graham Johnson. Mr. Keenlyside has also released recital discs of Schubert, Strauss, and Brahms Lieder, and an English song program, Songs of War, with pianist Malcolm Martineau. For Sony BMG, Mr. Keenlyside recorded an orchestral arias disc, Tales of Opera, which won a 2007 Gramophone award.
Philadelphia native Eric Owens has established himself as one of opera’s most exciting and versatile singers. His brilliant performance as Alberich has made him the breakout star of the Metropolitan Opera’s Robert Lepage Ring cycle, which returns to the Met in spring 2013. Other memorable performances by the bass-baritone include General Leslie Groves in the world premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic at San Francisco Opera, as well as the first performances of the work at Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Met; the Storyteller in the world premiere of Adams’s A Flowering Tree in Vienna; the title role in Handel’s Hercules at Lyric Opera of Chicago; and the title role in the world premiere of Elliott Goldenthal’s Grendel at Los Angeles Opera. In the summer of 2012, Mr. Owens was artist-in-residence at the Glimmerglass Festival, where he appeared as Amonasro in Aida, Stephen Kumalo in Lost in the Stars, and in an evening of cabaret. Among Mr. Owens’s career highlights in Europe are appearances in Norma at Covent Garden; Die Zauberflöte at Paris Opera; and Ariodante and L’Incoronazione di Poppea at English National Opera.
A graduate of Temple University and the Curtis Institute, Mr. Owens is a former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.
American soprano Dawn Upshaw began her career as a member of the Young Artists Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her company debut as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto in 1984. She was soon recognized as a Mozartean of exquisite accomplishment, with memorable performances as Susanna, Cherubino, Ilia, Zerlina, Pamina, and Despina to her credit over the years. More recently, Ms. Upshaw has become celebrated as a muse to some of contemporary music’s most distinguished composers, such as Osvaldo Golijov, who wrote the opera Ainadamar and the song cycle Ayre for her; and John Adams, in whose oratorio El Niño she created a leading role. Other world premieres for Upshaw include Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin and Le Passion de Simone, as well as John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, in which she created the role of Daisy Buchanan.
Ms. Upshaw’s current schedule involves not only engagements for recitals and concerts, but also a number of teaching affiliations. Ms. Upshaw teaches master classes and workshops throughout North America; she is a faculty member of the Tanglewood Music Center, and is Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory of Music. In 2007, Ms. Upshaw became the first vocal artist to receive a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. She is the recipient of four Grammy Awards; her more than fifty recordings range from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with James Levine to Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise with Kent Nagano, as well as the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki.




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