Voted by our readers and nationwide team of music critics, Limelight’s Artists of the Year are announced.
Mirroring the concert stage’s return to full strength post-pandemic, voters came out in strength to have their say. This year, we received more votes than ever before and for the first time, the same one artist has won both the Critics’ and People’s Choice for International Artist of the Year.
Clear winners only emerged late in the tally – a testament to the quantity and quality of musical experiences afforded to Australian audiences in 2023.
Australian Artist of the Year
Erin Helyard is the critics’ choice for Australian Artist of the Year, both for his musicianship and his leadership of Pinchgut Opera and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. In 2023, Helyard helmed the Australian premiere of Giovanni Legrenzi’s Giustino, a production that brought his “erudite stewardship” of the orchestra into sharp focus.
Pinchgut’s performances of Dieterich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri in April 2023 drew wide acclaim and Helyard also found time to perform with Swiss-based Australian cellist James Morley at the Sydney Opera House, in a program that included soprano and composer Jane Sheldon with works by Josephine Macken, Liza Lim and Henri Dutilleux.
In what was a closely fought category, Helyard pipped Melbourne Opera, Kalkadunga musician and composer William Barton and Chief Conductor of Queensland Symphony Orchestra Umberto Clerici to the post.
Australian Artist of the Year
Soprano Jessica Pratt was voted Australian Artist of the Year in the People’s Choice category, in recognition of her performance in Opera Australia’s mid-year production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and in Mad Scenes with Jessica Pratt.
Pratt’s performance in Hoffmann was “phenomenal and profoundly moving,” wrote Limelight reviewer Deborah Jones. “She gave ravishing, silken voice to some of Offenbach’s most lyrical and heartfelt music.”
The runners-up in the People’s Choice division were Limelight’s Artist of the Year for 2022, Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Conductor Simone Young, William Barton, and the UK-based Australian soprano Helena Dix, who returned home to make her title role debut in Melbourne Opera’s Maria Stuarda.
Critics & People'S Choice
International Artist of the Year
When it came to International Artist of the Year, the Critics and the People were (for once) in agreement. Conductor Sir Simon Rattle topped both polls in the wake of the London Symphony Orchestra’s triumphant 2023 tour which saw the orchestra perform concerts in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
All drew adoring capacity audiences and five-star reviews from Limelight critics. According to one, Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was “revelatory”; another praised Mahler’s Seventh for its “freshness and spontaneity”.
Rattle came out of the count ahead of Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson (a strong contender for next year, we suspect; he makes his Australian debut playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 2024), three-time Grammy winner Yannick Nézet-Séguin and American violinist Hilary Hahn.
Hahn also featured in list of People’s Choice runners-up in the International Artist of the Year category alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and the Kronos Quartet, who graced Australian stages on their farewell tour.
For our full analysis of the Limelight Artists of the Year, visit this link.