It was a great pleasure last weekend to host one of my old colleagues from Chicago Opera Theater over to attend the International Opera Awards on Monday evening at the London Coliseum. Linden Christ is the last remaining member of the team I built up over my 13 years in Chicago. She joined the company in 2006 in the department responsible for our Education programmes, and was an exceptionally energetic and positive force contributing hugely to the success of the year round activities that draw young people into participation in all aspects of opera production, and the enjoyment of the art form. Now twelve years later she is in charge and the company received a nomination at these prestigious awards - that was a remarkable achievement for which I fancy she is wholly responsible.
It was her first time in England and she brought sunny weather with her to add to her sunny disposition! I was able to take her around a bit, notably to the Tate both Britain and Modern, and she took herself off independently on expeditions including the Tower of London and evensong at St Paul's Cathedral. Fearless!! And her cousin living in London took her to the Ivy for dinner followed by The Mousetrap - oh such a poignant thought for me as I saw that play as a child 65 years ago with the original cast including Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim! It is still running - unbelievable.
In the event the award went to Holland Park Opera beating out COT and other nominated companies Florida Grand Opera, Garsington, the Polish National Opera, and La Monnaie, Brussels. But good for COT to be in such company.
The rest of the International Opera Awards event was an enjoyable social evening with so many old colleagues - ending up with a noisy crowd in the Coliseum's Sky Bar! There was a nice highlight with Wallis Giunta winning the young singer award against some formidable competition - including her fellow Canadian Gordon Bintner. I was delighted for Wallis - one of my finalist picks for Neue Stimmen a few years ago. She was eliminated in the first round on that occasion - it always good to remember these stories! And the real joy was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Teresa Berganza, (right) as gracious and delightful now as she was when I first saw and heard her in Le nozze di Figaro at Glyndebourne in 1958.
Last Friday I was at an impressive ENO cover run through of The Marriage of Figaro, a wonderful display of some of the finest young talent emerging and being developed by ENO both inside and outside its Harewood programme. Current Harewood Artists Božidar Smiljanić and Matthew Durkan took on Figaro and the Count most impressively and the delightful Barbarina from the first cast, Alison Rose, was an utterly charming confident Susanna - she is going to be really good! Another great find for ENO is Nardus Williams who covered the Countess - a major voice for the future. So that was an altogether encouraging afternoon.
On Tuesday I made a return visit to see The Moderate Soprano, revived in the West End following its premiere at the Hampstead Theatre where I saw it in October 2015. It was a significant critical success then with outstanding performances from Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll. It is now at the Duke of York's with some new cast members, in a somewhat reworked version, and above all in a typical small West End theatre - a far cry from the much more involving environment of the Hampstead Theatre. I saw a preview, a work in progress no doubt.
This evening I am looking forward to Handel's Teseo, part of the London Handel Festival. More on that tomorrow!