Emma Matthews, the Berlin Phil and Cate Blanchett take out top honours.

Last night’s glitzy ceremony for Australia’s prestigious arts and theatre awards was marked by a strong focus on Sydney events following a Melbourne-centric season in 2010.

The Sydney Opera House, host to the annual Helpmann presentation, dominated proceedings with nine nominations and four wins.

Opera Australia’s Partenopeand La Fanciulla del Westwere up against smaller-scale, innovative productions: Piazzolla’s tango opera María de Buenos Aires(State Opera of South Australia) and The Threepenny Opera(Malthouse Theatre/Victorian Opera). Christopher Alden’s Man Ray-inspired staging of Handel’s Partenopewon Best Opera, with perennial Helpmann favourite Emma Matthews crowned Best Female Performer in an Opera for her regal portrayal of the title role.

Widely considered the world’s greatest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic received two gongs for its highly anticipated Australian debut under Sir Simon Rattle: Best Individual Classical Performance and Best Symphony Orchestra Concert. Best Instrumental Ensemble Concert went to American pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s all-Chopin program, part of the Sydney Symphony International Pianists recital series. Ohlsson was the first American to scoop the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition prize in Warsaw, 1970.

Controversially, and despite eight nominations, the new Australian musical Doctor Zhivagostarring...