The Austrian Music Theatre Award is a most prestigious award, which is given to a broad range of artists every year. Its aim, since its first presentation in 2012, has been to show the multiple facets of music theatre. The various categories not only represent opera, operetta and musical, but also ballet, orchestra achievements, productions, theatre projects, innovative ideas for getting children engaged in classical music, etc.

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A jury picks several nominees for those different categories each year, and during an elegant gala evening the winners are announced.

Winners during the past year were, to name only a few: Grace Bumbry, René Pape, René Kollo, the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Herbert Lippert, Asmik Gregorian, Kurt Rydl, Thomas Hampson, Zubin Mehta, Piotr Beczala, Neil Shicoff, Edita Gruberova, Bo Skovhus, Bertrand de Billy, Diana Damrau and Jochen Kowalski.

This year’s event was held at a gala location at Salzburg Airport, and – due to Covid-19 restrictions – only for a limited audience. Opera Gazet was present to report.

Christoph Wagner-Trenkwitz from Austrian TV “ORF” was the presenter of the evening. He announced the nominees in the various categories and asked different presenters from sponsors to finally reveal the winners.

The “Janoska Ensemble” and singers Ildiko Raimondi, Zoryana Kushpler, Vincent Schirrmacher, and Günther Groissböck delivered the musical highlights between the announcements.

Austrian Music Theatre Award 2020
Plácido Domingo and René Kollo. Photo: Gabi Eder for Opera Gazet.

After a long evening the winners were announced. Among them were:

Best young talents
Female: Florence Losseau as Annio in La Clemenza di Tito at the Landestheater Linz
Male: Andrzej Lampert as shepherd in King Roger at the Opera Graz
Best supporting singer
Female: Aurelia Florian as Roxane in King Roger at Opera Graz
Male: Daniel Luis de Vicente as Paolo in Simon Boccanegra at the Tyrolean Landestheater
Best musical direction
Markus Poschner with Tristan and Isolde at the Landestheater Linz
Best production operetta
Polnische Hochzeit at the Landestheater Linz
Best main role
Female: Ursula Pfitzner as Herzogin in Powder her Face at the Volksoper Vienna
Male: Gábor Bretz as Don Quichotte at the Bregenz Festival
Best production opera
Don Quichotte at the Bregenz Festival
Special awards
Some very special awards were also presented. The award for best youth-and-children music theatre production (Land des Lächelns for children) went to Peter Edelmann, while Claudia Yang (born in Malaysia, living in China) was honoured for international cultural engagement.

The Media Prize went to Austrian bass Günther Groissböck and was delivered by tenor Herbert Lippert; René Kollo held a laudatio. The versatile singer’s list of successes is long and impressive, Groissböck sings major roles in all famous international opera houses. And with his performance of “Wie schön ist doch die Musik” from Die schweigsame Frau by Richard Strauss he proved that he is well worth the praise he gets from critics and colleagues around the world. Not only does he have a unique, immensely expressive, strong, rich and secure voice, but he also held a very critical speech, reminding all responsible politicians to be more careful about arts. He asked the leaders of the countries to finally create a “fear-free atmosphere” again without panic, anxiety and restrictions, because only then can music live and breathe. Groissböck said, if he were in power, he would add a very first chapter to Austria’s constitution which would say, “Music is a Holy Art”. So very well said!

Austrian Music Theatre Award 2020
Günther Groissböck. Photo: Gabi Eder for Opera Gazet.

And last but not least, the Award for Lifetime Achievement was given to Plácido Domingo. No need to explain what he has done for the opera world in a career that has passed the 60-year mark. The singer, who has luckily completely recovered from a serious infection with Covid-19, was visibly moved by the prize. In his speech, he spoke of his first performances in Austria, beginning with his debut role as Don Carlo in Vienna in 1967. He remembered each single venue he ever sang in this country, told several anecdotes, and ended up with a heartfelt pledge to support all singers, opera houses and artists who are currently suffering from the consequences of the lockdown and the general situation. His wife Marta (they celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary on 1 August) and two of his sons were with him this evening, and anyone stealing a glance at them all together could feel and see the strong family bond between them – maybe one of the secrets of Plácido Domingo’s longevity, and strengths.

This mild summer evening gave all of us present a brief taste of “normality” in these troublesome, insane days – but on the other hand it also made us more aware of what we are missing so much: positive (!) emotions, passion, intimacy, the unique atmosphere in a filled opera house – and voices that carry us away from all the sorrows of everyday life …

May it all return soon again!

Gabi Eder

 

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Nicolas Mansfield
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Gabi Eder
Gabi Eder

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Musical education: flute, singing in a chorus (under the baton of composer Johann Krebs). Former newspaper and radio journalist, owner of a PR agency since 1998. Favourite composers: Verdi and Wagner.

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