Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Barbara Cook joined director Francis Ford Coppola and playwright John Guare on Sunday to present this year's Opera News Awards.
Five artists were recognized for their international musical achievements: German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, American soprano Patricia Racette, New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and Italian conductor Riccardo Muti.
Coppola _ who directed the film "The Godfather" and its sequels _ presented the award to Muti, a native of Naples, Italy, who joked, "I look like a relative of The Godfather." Muti missed leading part of this winter's Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert series because of a fractured jaw and other injuries he suffered when he fainted and fell from the podium during a Feb. 3 rehearsal. He appeared healthy on Sunday.
Coppola followed Lupone, who noted that the Hollywood director fit well into Sunday's lineup because "his `Apocalypse Now' is truly operatic."
Also attending the awards ceremony at the Plaza Hotel was a robust-looking Michael Douglas, who fought throat cancer last year and declared in January that he is cancer-free after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
Asked what he would say to people who claim to hate opera, the actor and opera fan said, "They never went!" He said he goes regularly because the staged performances "are so broad and big _ this kind of dramatic art doesn't exist anymore."
The awards were created in 2005 by Opera News, whose circulation of more than 100,000 makes it the world's most popular magazine in the field.
Previous winner and top mezzo-soprano Susan Graham jokingly has called the magazine "our Bible, our porn" for its passionate fan following.
Opera News: http://www.operanews.com