Prize – Stipendium – Museum
The Birgit Nilsson Prize is the largest prize in classical music, awarded approximately every three years to an active artist or institution who has contributed an important chapter to music history. The Prize serves not only as a recognition of the recipients’ outstanding achievements, but as testament to the importance of passion and dedication in musical life and an incentive for younger musicians as they embark on their careers.
It was Birgit Nilsson herself who stipulated the criteria for the Prize and personally chose Plácido Domingo as the first recipient, writing his name on a piece of paper that was sealed in an envelope and not opened until three years after she died. Domingo received the Prize in 2009 in a moving award ceremony at the Royal Swedish Opera, on the same stage where Birgit Nilsson launched her operatic career more than half a century earlier. Successive recipients have been proposed by an international Advisory Panel of experts and voted on by the Board of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. Riccardo Muti was the Prize recipient in 2011, followed by the Vienna Philharmonic in 2014 and in 2018, the year which celebrated the 100th anniversary of Birgit Nilsson’s birth, the Prize was awarded to Swedish dramatic soprano, Nina Stemme.
The Birgit Nilsson Stipendium is given to promising young singers and is awarded from a fund that she established in 1969. The first Stipendium was presented in 1973 and today it is awarded annually at the church of Västra Karup in South Sweden, where Birgit herself sang often during her life. Throughout her career, Birgit Nilsson felt a personal responsibility for the future of opera and wanted to contribute by supporting the continued musical education of talented young Swedish singers.
The 2021 Birgit Nilsson Stipendium is awarded to 27 year old Swedish Soprano, Johanna Wallroth, who receives 200.000 SEK. Johanna was thrust into the limelight in 2019 when she took First Prize in the prestigious Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition. She subsequently joined the Opernstudio of the Wiener Staatsoper from the start of the 20/21 season where she has perfomed Giannetta (L’elisir d’amore), A Voice from Heaven (Don Carlos), La Coronazione di Poppea (La Fortuna) and Barbarina (Le Nozze di Figaro) in a livestream performance under Philippe Jordan. In addition to her upcoming commitments to the Wiener Staatsoper for the 21/22 season Johanna will perform this summer at a gala concert with the Drottingholm Baroque Orchestra, with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Daniel Harding and makes her debut with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under Barbara Hannigan. She receives the award on the occasion of this year’s “Birgit Nilsson Days” when she will also perform a recital in church of Västra Karup in South Sweden.
The Birgit Nilsson Museum was opened in 2010 at the farmhouse in Svenstad, South Sweden, where the singer lived with her parents until she was 23 years old. It is the place she returned to throughout her life and where she was continuously involved and committed to concerts within the local community. Today visitors can experience the farmhouse preserved as it was during Birgit Nilsson’s lifetime, explore the permanent and annual exhibitions, access the archive of recordings, letters and documents and follow the 9 km round hiking trail from the farm to the church of Västra Karup, where Sweden’s legendary opera singer was buried.
Every summer the Museum hosts the “Birgit Nilsson Days” with annual masterclasses and concerts in the church of Västra Karup, featuring both established and young Swedish opera singers – maintaining responsibility for nurturing and educating the next generation of talent, in the same spirit that Birgit Nilsson exemplified throughout her life.