The annual Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards, one of the richest and most coveted awards in Australia have been announced by Carrillo Gantner AC, Chairman, Sidney Myer Fund at Cranlana, Melbourne on Wednesday 11 March 2020.
Fittingly, the Award ceremony was held at Cranlana, the home of Sidney and Merlyn Myer that celebrates its 100-year anniversary on 11 March 2020.
This year, three passionate champions of the arts have been recognised for their extraordinary commitment and work.
The winners for the 2019 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards are Ensemble Offspring (NSW) – Group Award; Barrie Kosky (Berlin) – Individual Award and Richard Watts (Vic), Facilitator’s Prize.
Group Award ($90,000) – Ensemble Offspring
A devotion to daring music-making has seen Ensemble Offspring premiere over three hundred new works during its 25-year history.
Led by acclaimed percussionist Claire Edwardes, Ensemble Offspring comprises some of Australia’s most innovative and virtuosic performers. It champions marginalised compositional voices including female and first nations Australian composers.
“We are thrilled, honoured and humbled to receive the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Group Award for 2020. Being our 25th year in the industry, it feels like a perfect celebration of all our musical achievements so far,” says Claire Edwardes, Artistic Director Ensemble Offspring.
In 2016 Ensemble Offspring won the APRA Art Music Award for Excellence by an Organisation and in 2019 was featured at Gaudeamus Muziekweek. Ensemble Offspring recently toured to Amsterdam, Berlin, Glasgow, Hong Kong and Shanghai and is regularly featured at Mona Foma Festival (Tasmania) as well Sydney Festival. The group has a cult following at their Sizzle Series at local bowling clubs, now in its 10th year and they support the next generation of Australian musicians and composers through Hatched Academy. Driven by a philosophy of promoting artistic integrity and new ways for audiences to engage with new music, Ensemble Offspring prides itself on a holistic commitment to the music of our time.
Individual Winner ($60,000) – Barrie Kosky
The New York Times recently named Barrie Kosky as “the most interesting opera director of the past decade” (October 2019) and despite spreading himself across three continents has been a remarkable and influential presence in the Australian arts sector over that same decade. Kosky’s productions Saul and The Magic Flute have underpinned the resurrection of the Adelaide Festival and his season of The Nose at the Sydney Opera House helped Opera Australia break uncharted ground with audiences and critics alike.
“It is with enormous thanks and gratitude that I accept this wonderful award. My artistic and cultural ties to Australia are still very important to me and I would like to thank the Myer Foundation for this special honour”, says Barrie Kosky.
In 2014, Kosky was voted ‘Opera Director of the Year’ at the International Opera Awards in London and at the same awards in 2015, the Komische Oper was voted ‘Opera Company of the Year’.
His most recent work at the Komische Oper Berlin has included The Magic Flute (co-directed with 1927), which has been seen by over a quarter of a million people in three continents, The Monteverdi Trilogy, Ball at the Savoy, West Side Story, Moses und Aron, Tales of Hoffmann, Eugene Onegin, and his production of Castor and Pollux (co-produced by English National Opera) which won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Opera Production in 2012.
Barrie Kosky was Artistic Director of the 1996 Adelaide Festival and has directed opera and theatre productions for Opera Australia, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and the Sydney and Melbourne International Festivals.
Facilitator’s Prize ($25,000) – Richard Watts
Richard Watts is ArtsHub’s National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM. The founder of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre’s Committee of Management and on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel. He is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.
“I was first introduced to the transcendent power of the arts by my parents, as a child growing up in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley. More recently I’ve witnessed another side of the arts – the indefatigable spirit of those who refuse to let the devastation of fire or funding cuts diminish their creativity, their vision, or their capacity to share their work with the world”, Watts said.
“In my own work – both paid and voluntary – it has been a privilege and a joy helping to nurture, interrogate and promote the Australian performing arts industry in all its forms. My sincere thanks to my friends and family for their support along the way and special thanks to the Sidney Myer Foundation – not only for this generous prize, but for their significant and strategic support of the arts across Australia for so many years.”
Richard Watts is ArtsHub’s National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM.
The founder of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre’s Committee of Management and on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel. He is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.
The Trustees of the Sidney Myer Foundation believe that real achievement should be recognised and rewarded. It has awarded close to $4 million in the Awards’ 36 years.
The national Awards are determined by a Judging Committee that this year they included: Christie Anthoney, Fraser Corfield, Shelagh Magadza, Fiona Maxwell and Brian Ritchie. The Committee is chaired by Carrillo Gantner AC (Chairman, Sidney Myer Fund) who does not vote.
The Judging Committee recognises past achievements but also gives consideration to the potential of an individual or group to continue their contribution to Australian society through the performing arts.
The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards were established in 1984 by the Trustees of the Sidney Myer Fund, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Sidney Myer, a passionate advocate and great friend to the arts.