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Opera's Mortier gets posthumous award from opera world

LONDON (Reuters) - Gerard Mortier, the Belgian opera director and administrator who died last month at the age of 70, has received a posthumous lifetime achievement award at the second annual International Opera Awards in London.

Mortier "dedicated his life to bringing originality to opera and worked at three of the world's major operatic institutions, La Monnaie (Brussels), the Salzburg Festival and Opera National de Paris", said a statement issued by the award organizers after a ceremony on Monday night.

German soprano Diana Damrau and Australian tenor Stuart Skelton were chosen as best opera singers of the year, while Oper Zurich was named as the world's best opera company.

The annual summer opera at Aix-en-Provence in southern France won the Festival Opera of the Year category and the Salzburg Festival in Austria got the nod for a new production for its staging of Bellini's "Norma".

The Wexford Opera Festival in Ireland won in the category of rediscovered opera for its production of Jacopo Foroni's "Cristina, regina di Svezia". A staging of Andre Tchaikowsky's new work "The Merchant of Venice" by the Bregenz Festival in Austria won for the category of opera premiere.

A production of Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes" staged on the beach at Aldeburgh, eastern England, where the opera takes place was chosen as Britten Anniversary Production of the Year.

Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja won the readers' award, voted for by readers of Opera Magazine which co-sponsors the opera prizes along with businessman Harry Hyman. American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton was chosen as young singer of the year.

"I was thrilled that the second Opera Awards drew so many strong nominations and exciting shortlists," Opera Magazine editor John Allison told Reuters by email.

"The German-speaking world featured most prominently, though, and the dynamic work of the still relatively new administration at Oper Zurich is reflected in that house's win in the Opera Company of the Year award."

(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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