BN Portrait Photo © Sutdio Fayer Text in Gold Photo © Fredrik Stehn Stemme Photo © Fredrik Stehn Orchestra Photo © Jan-Olav Wedin King Photo © Fredrik Stehn Slide Photo © Kristian Löveborg M_B_Peil Photo © Kristian Löveborg Emma Sventelius Photo © unknown

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.

Birgit Nilsson personally chose the first laureate, Plácido Domingo, who received the prize in 2009. In 2011 conductor Riccardo Muti was chosen as the second laureate followed by the Vienna Philharmonic in 2014. In 2018, the year which celebrated the 100th anniversary of Birgit Nilsson’s birth, the prize was awarded to Nina Stemme. The recipient of each prize since 2011 has been selected by a distinguished international panel of classical music experts from the major countries where Birgit Nilsson was most active during her career.

The philosophy behind the Birgit Nilsson Prize is to perpetuate the legacy of Ms. 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.