Each year the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards are handed out to prominent Australian artists and organisations in the areas of dance, drama, comedy, music, opera, circus and puppetry. This year was unusual because the winners are all associated with music. The Group Award, carrying prizemoney of $90,000, went to Sydney new music group Ensemble Offspring, while the Individual Award, worth $60,000, went to theatre and opera director Barrie Kosky.
Ensemble Offspring hardly need any introduction. Australia’s much admired new music ensemble with a history spanning 25 years, they have a hugely impressive track record and were featured artists at Muziekweek in Utrecht in 2019. Led by percussionist Claire Edwardes, EO have brought new paradigms into concert making, from cross-genre collaborations to free improvisation. Each concert introduces audiences into a new domain. Latterly it has been championing the voices of young and emerging composers through its Hatched Academy.
Barrie Kosky is internationally regarded both in theatre and opera. In addition to his career with many theatre companies in Australia and overseas, he has forged a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative opera directors. He has been Intendant of Komische Oper Berlin since 2012, and has earned much attention with provocatively different interpretations of Mozart’s Magic Flute (2012), Handel’s Saul (2015), and Shostakovich’s The Nose (2018) – productions that have all shown in Australia. On the way is what is described will be a ‘voyeuristic’ interpretation of Strauss’s Salome with Frankfurt Oper.
The Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards also hand out a Facilitator’s Prize of $25,000. This year’s recipient was Richard Watts, performing arts editor at ArtsHub. Since 2000 this has been one of Australia’s leading online news and industry platforms in the arts.