Livermore Valley Opera has been honored as the cream of the crop among its peers nationwide after winning The American Prize in the Professional Opera Division for its ambitious double-bill production on the eve of the pandemic last year.
Presented as part of a comprehensive set of nonprofit competition awards for musical and theater arts, The American Prize judges lauded LVO's presentation of two one-act operas -- Alexander von Zemlinksy's "A Florentine Tragedy" and Giacomo Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" in March 2020.
Erie Mills, artistic director for LVO, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary season this year, said the Livermore-based organization was "thrilled" to receive news of its award last Friday.
"The entire double-bill production was a labor of love and skill for all involved. It rarely happens when all the elements of a production share equal value. This time the magic really worked," Mills said in a statement.
The American Prize is designed to recognize the best of the best in performing artists, ensembles, composers, conductors and directors nationwide based on submitted recordings, according to LVO officials.
The LVO double-bill opened onstage at the Bankhead Theater in the first weekend of March 2020, but then canceled subsequent live performances due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Video-recorded versions of the performances were quickly uploaded to the LVO YouTube channel to share the works so audiences could watch from home that spring.
Rarely performed together, the two single-act operas juxtaposed a tragedy and a comedy. Based on tales from author Oscar Wilde, "A Florentine Tragedy" tells a tale of jealousy and commerce, while "Gianni Schicchi", inspired by Dante Alighieri writings is a farcical story of a Mediterranean family who ultimately bond while fighting over a dead relative's will, according to LVO.
"Every once in a while, the perfect production is handed to you," said Layna Chianakas, stage director for the double-bill operas. "And this was one of those moments."
"The perfect cast and production team was assembled and the synergy was palpable," Chianakas said. "I am confident enough to know that I had a large hand in the success of the piece, but modest enough to realize that without the incredible cast, Jean Francois Revon's set design, Alex Katsman's deftness in front of the orchestra, Erie Mills' great leadership and countless others' skill and guidance, this prize would not have been awarded to this deserving company."
"I feel very blessed to have been a part of that perfect moment in time," Chianakas added.
David (Volosin) Katz, founder and chief judge for The American Prize, told Mills upon revealing the award last week, "We hope that your selection as a winner of The American Prize will be as much of an inspiration to you as your music-making was to us. May it help bring additional attention to your company's considerable musical gifts."
The winning performances of "A Florentine Tragedy" and "Gianni Schicchi" remain available on-demand on the "Livermore Valley Opera" YouTube channel.