Opera awards go to Peter Sellars and 4 singers

Associated Press Modified: April 30, 2012 at 8:30 am •  Published: April 30, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Director Peter Sellars has won a special award along with four of the world's best singers.

On Sunday, the prestigious Opera News Awards went to the American theater whiz, and to Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, German soprano Anja Silja, Swedish baritone Peter Mattei and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila.

Sellars says he "took the starch out of the Bugs Bunny version of opera" — with productions like the wrenching story of how the nuclear bomb was created in composer John Adams' Grammy award-winning "Doctor Atomic."

With his trademark hair shooting straight up, Sellars accepted the award at Manhattan's Plaza hotel.

"Nothing in my life prepared me for this ballroom," the Pittsburgh native deadpanned to the bejeweled fans, including Princess Madeleine of Sweden.

For the seventh year, the opera magazine honored stars of an art form that still expresses today's emotions, "here and now," says the director who once set Wagner in an abandoned American Airlines terminal and Mozart with props including switchblades, guns, and drugs, and waist-up nudity.

Opera, he says, "is the deep end of the pool, where we get real," and the top singers "take this and transform it into something beautiful ... things we care about most."

On Sunday, they included Hvorostovsky, the silver-haired native of Siberia listed by People magazine as one of the 50 "most beautiful people," complete with his rich, liquid voice.

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