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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Opera show wins classical awards
Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist
Operatunity followed Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist (right) in training
Channel 4 series Operatunity, which turned inexperienced singers into professional opera performers, has won two Royal Philharmonic Society awards.

It took the radio, video and television prize and the award for audience development at the prestigious live classical music awards on Wednesday.

Judges at the London ceremony said the series "demystified the art form".

Soprano Susan Chilcott, who died of breast cancer in September 2003, won best singer for her "searing" vocals.

Operatunity followed Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist as they trained with the English National Opera (ENO) in February 2003.

'Gripped'

Their prize on the show was to share the role of Gilda in an ENO production of Verdi's Rigoletto at the London Coliseum.

The Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) judging panel described the series as "a project that has caught the public imagination and gripped a mass audience".

"It captures the thrill of performance and gives a rare insight into the challenge of live music-making," they said.

Chilcott was honoured for her acclaimed final lead performance in the Welsh National Opera's production of Jenufa.

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
A powerful reminder that idealism and optimism are still very much alive
RPS Awards jury on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

The Welsh National Opera took another of the 15 RPS awards at the Dorchester Hotel ceremony.

It won the education prize for its Katerina Project, a programme involving local councils and primary schools which formed a permanent children's choir.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which united Arab and Israeli musicians, won in the large ensemble category.

The orchestra, founded by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said, was honoured for its 2003 Proms concert.

The jury said the orchestra was "a powerful reminder that idealism and optimism are still very much alive, even in our jaded times".

'Brilliant roles'

They added: "Music-making like this can and does change lives."

Conductor Richard Armstrong took the opera award for staging the Scottish Opera's production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, while the Latvian-born Mariss Jansons was named best conductor.

Sir Thomas Allen, a baritone, picked up the BBC Radio 3 listeners' award for "superb recitals and a variety of brilliant stage roles".

And Richard McNicol, Music Animateur of the London Symphony Orchestra, was awarded honorary RPS membership for his services for music.


SEE ALSO:
Opera singers ride to Glastonbury
05 May 04  |  Entertainment
Opera calls time on 'darling'
22 Apr 04  |  Entertainment
Impresario blasts 'absurd' opera cuts
29 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
Opera strike causes cancellation
25 Feb 03  |  Entertainment


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