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Musical critic Mihai Cosma, invited to Musica viva

Wednesday, 15 November 2023 , ora 12.20

The International Opera Awards took place in Warsaw on the 9th of November 2023. From the jury of these awards, considered the Oscars of opera, includes musicologist Mihai Cosma. He was present at the event and gives us the first details, live via from Warsaw.

It gives me great pleasure to be at the microphone of Radio România Muzical at this hour to tell you some impressions of the Oscars Opera Gala, as they are known all over the world. The International Opera Awards - the most prestigious awards in the world of music.

I say prestigious not only because of their importance and the fact that they are recognised onall the world, but because they are awarded absolutely fairly, honestly and through very laborious process of nominations and voting involving an impressive number of members. of the jury - around 50, from 20 countries around the world; so it's a coverage not only of European, but worldwide, and it has specialists from various fields of the work behind it. Apart from music critics, the jury also includes conductors, singers, directors, set designers, teachers, conductors, and theatre directors... people from all areas of operatic activity.

Last night was a high-profile event here in Warsaw. I had no doubt it would be like this. Poles are very good at everything they do musically. I was looking through the last issue of Opera magazine to see how many Poles have won these awards over the years. To give just one example, I could name the famous tenor Piotr Beczala or, not long ago, the very manager of the Warsaw Opera received the award for the best opera administrator, Mr Waldemar Dabrowski, who was also on stage last night and greeted the audience on behalf of the hosts and expressed his pleasure at hosting this edition.

It was an edition with important names, it was an edition with a slightly different profile. I really enjoyed the show itself. It started from the idea of presenting to the world some particularly beautiful pages from Polish operas and they chose Stanislaw Moniuszko - the most important Polish opera composer and the most famous in the world. And, from his work, we had the opportunity during the gala to hear some arias for soprano, tenor, baritone and an orchestral sequence. For Western audiences and for those not familiar with Polish music, it was a surprise very pleasant surprise. This music that many of us heard for the first time, the music of Moniuszko's music I think is at a very good level and Poles were very proud to have the opportunity, during the Oscars to play music from their country.

There were also some well-known names on the list of winners. I'd start with the legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, who received the lifetime achievement award - predictably, which was also announced before the gala. She is one of the legends of world opera. I was delighted to remember that on the posters Marilyn Horne appeared on, at the Metropolitan and elsewhere, I met and Virginia Zeani's name, who has been her stage partner so many times. Another name that shines was that of Sir Antonio Pappano - the famous opera conductor who since recently parted company with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and later this year he will will be leaving there for good - who intervened on video (he was at a performance in Italy) and very emotional, said that this past year was perhaps the best year of his career, but also somehow a year of heartbreak, because not only has he left Covent Garden, but he has also left Orchestra Santa Cecilia, the famous symphony orchestra in Rome, and is continuing his career with new orchestras, with new ensembles such as the London Philharmonic.

At the singer level, of course there were some major awards. The best singer of the world was considered soprano Aigul Akhmetshina, whom I had the pleasure of presenting at the Radio Romania Muzical together with Luminița Arvunescu at one of the "Opera Evenings", at a broadcast live from the Metropolitan a few months ago, when she sang the role of Gilda in Rigoletto.

The best singer was Michael Spyres, baritone, who manages to win back-to-back International Opera Awards. Of course, in a different category; last year, he received the award for best recital on CD, this year he received the award for best Best Singer.

There's also an audience award, which has been eagerly, eagerly awaited. The votes are counted and organised by London Opera magazine. Nadine Sierra is the winner of this award, and she's Opera's readers' favourite, the favourite the public - a very important name.

I was happy because one of the companies that make history in the world of opera, and not yesterday of today, namely the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Munich opera, has won two awards, perhaps the most important awards that an institution can take: the prize for the best opera company and the prize for the best performance; they staged an extremely difficult opera last year in Prokofiev's "War and Peace" - a monumental work, with no less than 17 performances, and a soloists, choir, orchestra, absolutely epic performances, of course along the lines of Lev Tolstoy's novel. So, here is a very important success for the Bayerische Staatsoper which, I repeat, has received what any opera manager would dream of receiving in terms of awards.

I would like to ask you how was the atmosphere in the hall? How did the audience receive this gala?

First of all, it was a full house, with very elegant people, who came to a show that is both musical and social, and also has this global character, as awards are given for achievements on all continents. ncidentally, the organisers announced for those who want to see the ceremony that it is broadcast live on the most popular opera channel, Opera Vision, which fortunately is also free, so it was accessible not only to the 1400 or so people who were present last night in Warsaw, but to everyone who clicked and wanted to watch the ceremony live, which will be available to the public for the next 30 days. So, if anyone wants to tune in to Opera Vision to watch the Oscars, they can still do so.

It was a very special atmosphere starting with a reception, continuing with the gala and ending with a big party that went late into the night and was attended not only by the award winners, but also by the jury, but also - to my delight - young people from the Young Artist Programme of the Warsaw Opera, perhaps one of the best such programmes in the world. Although of course it doesn't have the biggest budget, the Warsaw Opera is doing much the same as in Romania with money - sometimes they have it, sometimes they don't - but they manage to make an excellent youth programme. I remember from the Grand Prix de'l Opera that I organized in Bucharest, that the strongest team of young singers always came from Poland. They were also the ones who sang those moments of opera moments that were interspersed from time to time during the gala. So, all the soloists were either current members of the youth program or graduates of the youth program. Afterwards, we sat and chatting with them and I was happy to see even some of the laureates from Bucharest.

Interview by Andreea Kiseleff
Translated by Andreea Iulia Udroiu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu