In its 61st year, the prestigious French academy recognizes important recordings and DVDs in a wide variety of genres.
The release of Donizetti's La Fille du regiment (DVD Virgin/EMI), where Dessay rules the stage as the regiment's irrepressible mascot, Marie, was the occasion for the Academy - respected members of the French music scene - to salute her with a prize "in honorem" for the entirety of her career.
In the Opera category, the Patrice Ch_reau production of Janacek's From the House of the Dead conducted by Pierre Boulez, (DVD Deutsche Grammophon/Universal) was also an obvious choice for top honors. Universally hailed when seen at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and later the Paris Opera, it is on the program next season at the Metropolitan Opera.
The Baroque category was won by the Virgin/EMI DVD of Stefano Landi's Il Sant'Alessio with William Christie conducting his Les Arts Florissants. Given a candlelit staging by Benjamin Lazar, it is one of the earliest Baroque operas, the first to deal with an historical subject. German Tenor Jonas Kaufmann, the newest superstar on the international opera stage, was awarded the Lyric Soloist prize for his Decca/Universal CD of "Romantic Arias."
A spotlight was trained on little-known French composer Bernard Parmegiani, 81, who was given the President of the Republic's Prize. A large selection of his work from 1964 to the present has been issued in a 12 CD set by INA-GRM. Young pianist Bertrand Chamayou was recognized in the Instrumental Soloist category for his NaÇve CD of Mendelssohn's "Pieces for Piano," and the Modigliani Quartet won in the Chamber Music category for their new Mirare CD of Haydn quartets.
In the Conductor category, Pierre-Andr_ Valade was honored for three different CDs, each featuring music by different composers: Hugues Dufourt (Timpani), Giovanni Verrando (Stradivarius) and Mauro Lanza (Opus Arte). The Contemporary Music award was awarded to the Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporian, conducted by Susanna M‹lkki , for their Kairos CD dedicated to the music of Luca Francesconi.
Awards were also issued in several other categories including: Blues, Children's Recording, Jazz, Spoken Word, Chanson and World Music.
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Frank Cadenhead is a journalist who has written for such publications as The International Herald Tribune and The American Record Guide. He is the Paris correspondent for MusicalAmerica.com.