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 of one million dollars, the largest given in the world of classical music, is awarded approximately every 3 years for outstanding achievements and major contributions to the field of opera/concert to a currently active singer (in the field of opera, concert, oratorio, or lieder); a currently active conductor (in the field of opera or concert); an institution with an outstanding record in opera or concert, such as an orchestra, a chorus, or an opera company (in the case of an opera company, specifically in recognition of an exceptional production that respects the spirit of the composer).
Towards the end of her unparalleled, long and distinguished career, the legendary Swedish dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson established the Birgit Nilsson Foundation exclusively to support this Prize. Being very concerned with the general decline of cultural values, in particular with the decline of performance standards in opera, and encountering much greater difficulties in the early years of her career than is generally known to the public, Birgit Nilsson believed that overcoming these difficulties motivated her and contributed to her future success. Along with honouring great artists and artistry, it was her hope in establishing this Prize to provide incentive and inspiration to young artists to sustain their efforts to reach full potential by planning their careers over the long term and to perpetuate the art form.
The philosophy behind the Birgit Nilsson Prize is to perpetuate the legacy of Birgit Nilsson and Sweden’s great operatic tradition by paying tribute to today’s outstanding, active figures in music, recognizing the excellence of their work and their major contributions.
Birgit Nilsson personally 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 laureate, who received the award, was 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.
In 2011, the second laureate, conductor Riccardo Muti, was selected by a distinguished international panel of classical music experts from the major countries where Birgit Nilsson was most active during her career. 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 Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2014 was awarded to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is being recognized for its extraordinary contributions during its 172 years of work in opera and concert, as well as for its enormous worldwide influence in the music world both on and off the stage through live performance, recordings, and other media.
The panel members, who are appointed by and work with the Foundation’s board and who serve for a period of three years, have remained the same for 2011 and 2014. They are:
- Germany: Eva Wagner-Pasquier, Co-Director of the Bayreuth Festival
- Sweden: Bengt Hall, Managing Director of the Malmö Opera, and former General Manager of the Royal Swedish Opera Stockholm
- United Kingdom: Rupert Christiansen, Opera Critic of the Daily Telegraph and Member of the Editorial Board of OPERA
- USA: Speight Jenkins, former General Director of the Seattle Opera
- Austria: Clemens Hellsberg, President of the Vienna Philharmonic (NOTE: Hellsberg was a member of the 2011 panel but recused himself from the 2014 panel.)
The first and second award ceremony of the Birgit Nilsson Prize took place at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. On the very stage where Birgit Nilsson made her debut, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented the Prize personally to star tenor, conductor and opera house director Plácido Domingo as well as to Maestro Riccardo Muti, the 2011 Prize laureate. The Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2014 was awarded to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concert Hall in Stockholm on October 8, 2014.