Melbourne Ring and Sydney Theatre Company win big while Sweet Charity slays the giants.

The Melbourne Ring came out top of the poll at the 18th annual Helpmann Awards held at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney last night. The epic production of Wagner’s tetralogy carried off a total of six Helpmanns including Best Opera, Neil Armfield as Best Director, Pietari Inkinen for Musical Direction, Norwegian bass-baritone Terje Stensvold (the production’s Wotan) as Best Male Performer and Jacqueline Dark and Warwick Fyfe (Fricka and Alberich respectively) as Best Supporting Actors.

Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra David Robertson will be pleased this morning as American soprano Christine Goerke won the Best Female Performer for her outstanding Elektra in a series of staged concert performances by the SSO.

Classical music performances, in the usual muddled and inadequate range of categories, saw Jordi Savall’s Jerusalem Project at Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre win a well-deserved award as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for their 2013 Australian tour. Russian coloratura soprano Julia Lezhneva won for Best Individual Classical Performance for her concert as part of Hobart Baroque.

The night’s theatrical awards were dominated by Sydney Theatre Company in an excellent year across a range of productions. Cate Blanchett won a Best Actor award for her role in Genet’s The Maids, which has just completed a successful run in New York. Richard Roxburgh and Luke Mullins won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards for Waiting for Godot while the STC production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead won both Design and Lighting Design awards for Gabriella Tylesova and Nick Schlieper.

In a disappointing showing, Belvoir Theatre only won two Helpmanns for Angels in America – Best Play and Best Supporting Actor for Robyn Nevin. Melbourne also fared badly with only Michael Kantor winning Best Director for Malthouse Theatre’s The Shadow King. The other states had few nominations and fared badly, adding fuel to the argument that the Helpmanns are out of touch with regional work.

The big musical winner was the tiny Hayes Theatre’s production of Cy Coleman’s Sweet Charity (a production that was controversially nominated despite not paying its actors Equity rates). It won Best Director (Dean Bryant), Best Choreography (Andrew Hallsworth), Female Actor (Verity Hunt-Ballard). The Best Musical however went to The King And I which also won for Costumes and Sound Design. Reg Livermore won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as the Wizard in Wicked while Heather Mitchell won for the otherwise disappointing Strictly Ballroom, surprisingly nominated for Best Musical despite a panning by the critics.

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