Award for Wagner spectacular that led to debt crisis

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Scottish opera's acclaimed production of Wagner's Ring cycle that helped the company fall millions of pounds into debt won an award last night from the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS).

Richard Armstrong, the company's music director, was presented with the opera award for his conducting and his "achievement" in staging the complete Scottish Opera Ring cycle.

Although the Ring cycle itself was applauded by the critics, the ambitious production ended with the company drawing down £4m of next year's £7.5m budget to survive. Big job cuts are expected.

At last night's RPS awards at the Dorchester Hotel in London, other winners included the Channel 4 series Operatunity , which gave budding opera stars a chance to sing with the English National Opera.

The judges said the project - which won the audience development award and the award for radio, video and television music - "demystifies the art form without cheapening it".

The 2003 Proms appearance of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded of young Jews and Arabs by the conductor Daniel Barenboim with the late writer Edward Said, triumphed in the large ensemble category. The jury said it "acted as a powerful reminder that idealism and optimism are still very much alive, even in our jaded times. Music-making like this can and does change lives".

The soprano Susan Chilcott, who died of breast cancer at 40 last September, was honoured with the singer award for her final performance in the Welsh National Opera's (WNO) production of Jenufa . The WNO also won a prize for its education work involving 500 children in Merthyr Tydfil. Other category winners included Mariss Jansons, the conductor; the London Symphony Orchestra for its series of works by George Benjamin; Mitsuko Uchida, the pianist, and Harrison Birtwistle, the composer.



Jim Samson: Virtuosity and the Musical WORK

Chamber ensemble

Belcea Quartet


Mitsuko Uchida

Large Ensemble

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim

Chamber-scale composition

Helmut Lachenmann: Grido


Marriss Jannsons

Concert Series and Festivals

LSO: By George!


WNO MAX: Katerina Project

Large Scale Composition

Harrison Birtwistle: The Shadow of the Night


Richard Armstrong for Wagner's Ring (Scottish Opera)

Radio, Television, Video

Operatunity (Diverse Production)


Susan Chilcott (posthumous award)

Young artist

Ilan Volkov