Netrebko made her international breakthrough as Lyudmila in San Francisco Opera's 1995 production of Ruslan and Lyudmila, drawing praise for her sensuous voice and captivating stage presence. Several U.S. appearances followed thereafter, in such roles as Natasha in Prokofiev's War and Peace and Gilda, Musetta, Nannetta and Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi. As Natasha, she made her first appearances at Covent Garden (2000) and the Metropolitan Opera (20002); subsequent debuts in Munich and Los Angeles caused a critic to declare her "the new Callas."
"Having come very far, very fast, Netrebko perhaps epitomizes the opera star of today, her natural beauty and fine acting skills complimenting what is widely acknowledged as one of the finest female voices on the operatic stage today," writes Susan Elliott of Musical America. Netrebko is currently performing in the Met's production of Gounod's Rom_o et Juliette.
Musical America has also named Kaija Saariaho, Robert Spano, Charles Rosen and Chanticleer as its Composer, Conductor, Instrumentalist and Ensemble of the Year.
The Helsinki-born Saariaho studied at the Sibelius Academy and IRCAM, where she explored computer-aided composition, tape and live electronics during the 1980s. Her more recent work with opera, such as L'Amour de loin with a libretto by Amin Maalouf and premiered by Peter Sellars at the 2000 Salzburg Festival, has received worldwide acclaim, including the 2003 Grawemeyer Award. Saariaho's second opera, Adriana Mater, receives its U.S. premiere at the Santa Fe Opera next summer.
Atlanta Symphony music director Robert Spano has become a standard-bearer for innovative orchestral programming. Now in his sixth year with the orchestra, he has spearheaded successful recording ventures and commissioned several new works. Earlier this month, the Atlanta Symphony received a $1 million grant to help fund its Altanta School of Composers, through which it has commissioned Jennifer Higdon, Michael Gandolfi, Christopher Theofanidis and Osvaldo Golijov, among others; in June, ASCAP awarded the orchestra its top Adventurous Programming Award, the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music.
Pianist and noted scholar Charles Rosen, whose playing musicologist Stanley Sadie has described as "intense, severe and intellectual," recently performed the late Beethoven sonatas in London and New York. The 80-year-old Princeton and Juilliard graduate is a respected interpreter of Schoenberg and Webern. In 1961, he gave the premiere of Elliott Carter's Concerto for piano and harpsichord, and was one of the four pianists to commission Carter's Night Fantasies (1980). Rosen also played and recorded sonatas by Boulez, with whom he has worked closely.
Chanticleer is the only independent full-time classical vocal ensemble in the United States. Known for its expansive repertoire, it has commissioned, performed and recorded several works by contemporary American composers; its recordings of early music cover Franco-Flemish polyphony (including Brumel and Josquin), Morales and Palestrina, and such lesser-known works of the Mexican Baroque. Chanticleer was founded in 1978 and has made some 30 recordings, two of which have won Grammy Awards.