More votes than ever - a staggering 15,000 - have been cast in the third annual WhatsOnStage Opera Poll, and we're delighted to announce the winners and runners-up.
Last year's centenary composer Benjamin Britten has dominated the outcome, with productions of his operas winning in three of the five categories.
Keith McDonnell, WhatsOnStage's opera editor, said: "All of us at WhatsOnStage are bowled over by the enthusiastic response to the Opera Poll this year, as more votes have been cast than ever before. It has certainly caught the operagoing's public imagination and in some categories the winner only won by a fraction of a percent, making this the most closely-fought Poll so far."
The Sussex-based Glyndebourne company secured more nominations than anyone else - seven - both for its summer festival and its autumn tour, and is a double winner.
Welcoming the news, Glyndebourne's General Director, David Pickard, said "I am absolutely thrilled that Glyndebourne's two contributions to last year's Britten celebrations, Billy Budd and The Rape of Lucretia, have won the best revival and best new production categories. It is a particular pleasure that the awards come from members of the public, reflecting the electric atmosphere in the theatre at each performance of these two great operas".
Glyndebourne's Billy Budd (directed by Michael Grandage) is about to open in New York, complete with most of the 2013 company under its original conductor (from 2010), Sir Mark Elder. It plays for four performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music between 7-13 February.
In the category 'Outstanding Achievement in a Main Role' there was a battle royal between two of today's best-loved mezzo-sopranos, with British singer Sarah Connolly just pipped at the post by the American Joyce DiDonato, who starred in Rossini's La donna del lago at the Royal Opera - and was the Vivienne Westwood-clad figurehead of the 2013 Last Night of the Proms.
If there is a surprise victor this year, it is the young Swiss-Turkish director Aylin Bozok whose shoestring production of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande so impressed audiences last summer at the Arcola Theatre's Grimeborn Festival. It was full of simply-realised ideas that brilliantly elucidated what for many is a difficult opera, and Bozok's talent marks her out as a worthy winner of 'Best Newcomer to the UK Operatic Scene' and an exciting prospect for the future.
The runaway winner of 'Outstanding Contribution to the UK Operatic Scene/Event of the Year' was the Aldeburgh Festival's triumphant realisation of its impossible dream of performing Britten's Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach. That historic enterprise, which went on to play in cinemas and is enshrined on both CD and DVD, was as brilliantly executed as it was boldly conceived.
McDonnell added: "I'd like to thank my colleagues Mark Valencia and Simon Thomas, and congratulate all the winners and runners-up for what has been an exceptional year of opera."
The winners of the 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards will be announced at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 23 February - for more information and to buy tickets visit awards.whatsonstage.com
BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
Winner: The Rape of Lucretia (Glyndebourne Tour/Fiona Shaw)
Runner-up: Hippolyte et Aricie (Glyndebourne/Jonathan Kent)
Other runners-up: Lulu (WNO/David Pountney), Carmen (ENO/Calixto Bieito) and Wozzeck (ENO/Carrie Cracknell)
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN A MAIN ROLE
Winner: Joyce DiDonato (La donna del lago/Royal Opera)
Runner-up: Sarah Connolly (Medea/ENO & Hippolyte et Aricie/Glyndebourne)
Other runners-up: Anne Sophie Duprels (Madama Butterfly/Opera Holland Park); Laurent Naouri (Falstaff/Glyndebourne); Michael Volle (Tosca & Les Vêpres siciliennes/Royal Opera)
Winner: Billy Budd (Glyndebourne/Michael Grandage)
Runner-up: Wozzeck (Royal Opera/Keith Warner)
Other runners-up: Falstaff (Glyndebourne); Elektra (Royal Opera); Death in Venice (ENO)
BEST NEWCOMER TO THE UK OPERATIC SCENE
Winner: Aylin Bozok (director of Pelleas et Melisande at Grimeborn/Arcola)
Runner-up: Ilyich Rivas (conductor of Hansel und Gretel for Glyndebourne Tour)
Other runners-up: Sara Jakubiak (Marie in Wozzeck/ENO); Russell Thomas (Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera); Carrie Cracknell (director of Wozzeck at ENO).
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE UK OPERATIC SCENE/EVENT OF THE YEAR
Winner: Aldeburgh Festival for ‘Grimes on the Beach'
Runner-up: The Royal Opera House for its imaginative pricing policy when programming new or challenging operas
Other runners-up: BBC Proms for Daniel Barenboim's ‘Ring' Cycle; British Youth Opera for strong productions this season and for nurturing new talent; Opera North for its ‘Festival of Britten'.