Birgit Nilsson Prize
|The Birgit Nilsson Prize|
|Awarded for||outstanding achievement in classical music and opera|
|Presented by||The Birgit Nilsson Foundation|
The Birgit Nilsson Prize is an international music prize founded by, and named for, by the famous opera singer. It awards a single performing artist, a conductor or a production in the field of opera or classical music with one million dollars.
The dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson (1918 - 2005) decided towards the end of her career to establish a foundation for a prize to be awarded every second or third year in the amount of one million dollars for ”outstanding achievements by, a singer in the field of opera or concert or oratorio, or a conductor in the classical field of opera or concert, or a specific production by an opera company, as long as this production is outstandingly cast and conducted and, most importantly, staged in the spirit of the composer.”
The award was announced to the public only three years after the death of its founder by the Birgit Nilsson Foundation in Stockholm on 5 December 2008. It was the wish of Birgit Nilsson that the award had to be kept secret until then.
Birgit Nilsson herself chose the first prize-winner and put the chosen name in a sealed envelope to be opened three years after her death, which was on Christmas Day 2005. The envelope was opened in February 2009 and the first winner is the opera tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo.
Plácido Domingo’s worldwide career is legendary - singing 130 different roles, more than any other tenor in history. Domingo’s musicality is confirmed by his extraordinary repertoire and singing career as well as his accomplishments as a conductor, administrator, humanitarian, and creator of young artist programs and competitions.
Birgit Nilsson and Plácido Domingo first sang together in New York at the Metropolitan Opera on February 15, 1969 in a matinee production of Tosca. Nilsson remarked that "Plácido acquitted himself splendidly. He was an incredibly good Cavaradossi, his acting was superb — he was the part, he loved the part and on top there was gorgeous singing."
A collegial recognition of Birgit’s artistry was evident during a television interview several years ago when Plácido Domingo was asked what musical recordings he cherished most – he answered, "One of my all-time favorites is ‘In questa reggia’ sung by Birgit Nilsson but the recording cannot compare to the sound I heard when singing with her.
Riccardo Muti won the second ever Birgit Nilsson prize in 2011. Cited for his "extraordinary contributions in opera and concert, as well as his enormous influence in the music world both on and off the stage."
The first award ceremony of the Birgit Nilsson Prize took place at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm on 13 October 2009. On the very stage where Birgit Nilsson made her debut, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden presented the Prize personally to star tenor, conductor and opera house director Plácido Domingo. The musical programme starred the Swedish Soprano Nina Stemme and the German conductor Gregor Bühl. "The Prize money will greatly benefit my annual competition Operalia," said the recipient Plácido Domingo. In an emotional speech, he further said it was "unbelievable" to be standing on the stage where Nilsson had performed so many times, calling her "one of the greatest artists, if not the greatest." 
- Statutes of the Birgit Nilsson Prize
- Video announcement of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation
- Svenska Dagbladet (English Edition)
- Homepage of Plácido Domingo
- La Nilsson (Autobiography)
- Placido Domingo - My Operatic Roles
- Videoclip of the Award Ceremony
- Der Neue Merker (Austrian Musicmagazine)
- Wagneropera blog
- BBC News