Royal Opera House called 'one of world's greatest' by music judges

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Leading figures at the Royal Opera House were praised for creating "one of the greatest opera houses in the world" after three of its musicians picked up the highest honours in live classical music.

Antonio Pappano, the Opera House's musical director, won the Conductor accolade at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, while the Singer award went to Ben Heppner for his "towering performance" in the title role of Peter Grimes. Thomas Adès, the composer, took the Music Award for Large-scale Composition for The Tempest.

Tony Fell, the chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, said yesterday the combined efforts of Pappano and Tony Hall, the Opera House's chief executive, had led to its "major triumph" as a world-class institution. "They have created a really united house and have made extraordinary strides ... They have created one of the greatest opera houses in the world."

The awards, which are the most prestigious in live classical music, honoured composers, writers, broadcasters and arts organisations for their work in 2004.

The judges said Pappano had "re-invigorated the company by his warm and inspiring leadership and commitment as music director". The recognition was welcomed by the ROH, which was built in 1809 but redeveloped from a one-acre site to three acres in 1999. The refurbishment cost £214m, including £74m lottery money and £100m from a fundraising appeal.

Sir Charles Mackerras received the popular vote when he scooped the BBC Radio 3 Listeners Award, and the Gold Medal, which is the RPS's most prestigious honour. The medal, which bears the effigy of Ludwig van Beethoven, has only been awarded 90 times since its inception in 1870, and its alumni includes Alfred Brendel, Sir Colin Davis, Elliott Carter, Rafael Kubelik, Placido Domingo and Gyorgy Ligeti.

Manchester's Hallé Orchestra took the RPS Music Award for Ensemble. The jury, composed of an independent panel of distinguished industry figures, said: "The revival of the Hallé under Mark Elder is one of the great success stories of British classical music." Meanwhile, the ground-breaking project, Operaction Hackney: On London Fields, received the educational award.