Birgit Nilsson Prize
birgit nilsson 1979 ©beth bergman

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.

In May 2022 Yo-Yo Ma was announced as the fifth recipient and first instrumentalist to receive the Prize. Commenting at the time of the announcement, Birgit Nilsson Foundation President, Susanne Rydén, said “In today’s challenging and ever-evolving world, when classical music is too easily marginalised, Yo-Yo Ma embodies everything that Birgit Nilsson wished for in a fellow-artist when she created this Prize. Through exceptional musicianship, passion and dedication, Yo-Yo Ma’s commitment to music helps us to imagine and build a stronger society and better future. His support and engagement continuously inspires new generations of musicians as they embark on their own musical lives.

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 2022 Birgit Nilsson Stipendium was awarded to Swedish dramatic soprano, Cornelia Beskow, who received 200.000 SEK. Winner of the 2017 Lauritz Melchior International Singing Competition, where she was awarded all four prizes, Cornelia Beskow trained at the Copenhagen Opera Academy (Soloist Class, 2009-2012) and the Stockholm University of the Arts (Masters Degree in Opera 2013–2015). She made her Swedish debut at the Stockholm Royal Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (2015) and her international debut at the Wiener Staatsoper as Elsa in Lohengrin (2020). In 2022 Cornelia Beskow made her debut as Jenufa in a new production by Keith Warner at the Oslo Opera and performed Senta in Der fliegende Holländer on the outdoor stage of Opera Østfold at Fredrikstens Festning.

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.

Yo-Yo Ma became the fifth recipient and first instrumentalist to be presented the Birgit Nilsson Prize by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf at the official Award Ceremony in Stockholm yesterday evening …

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Stockholm is preparing to welcome Yo-Yo Ma to receive the 2022 Birgit Nilsson Prize and audiences worldwide are invited to join the Prize Ceremony, streamed live for free on Konserthuset Play …

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Birgit Nilsson Foundation President, Susanne Rydén, announced today that the 2022 Birgit Nilsson Prize will be awarded to cellist Yo-Yo Ma. At one million US dollars, the Prize is the largest in classical music, …

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The 2022 Birgit Nilsson Stipendium is awarded to the Swedish lyric dramatic soprano, Cornelia Beskow, who receives 200.000 SEK (equivalent to $20.000) on August 12 when she will perform in Birgit Nilsson’s parish church at Västra Karup, as a part of the celebrations for this year’s “Birgit Nilsson Days”. …

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2021 Birgit Nilsson Stipendium awarded to soprano, Johanna Wallroth …. Birgit Nilsson Days (9-14 August) with masterclasses …. Birgit Nilsson Stiftelsen launches a new website …. Birgit Nilsson Museum re-opens …

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The 2020 Birgit Nilsson Scholarship is awarded to 30 year old Swedish Mezzo-Soprano, Emma Sventelius who receives 200.000 SEK on August 7 in Västra Karup, Skåne, when she will perform in recital as a part of the celebrations for this year’s Birgit Nilsson Days, hosted by the Birgit Nilsson Museum …

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Birgit Nilsson Foundation President Rutbert Reisch announced today in Stockholm that the Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2018 will be awarded to Nina Stemme. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place in the presence of Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia on October 11, 2018 …

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On Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at a press conference at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, the fourth recipient of the BIRGIT NILSSON PRIZE will be revealed. The Prize itself will be awarded in Stockholm at The Royal Opera House on October 11, 2018, with a general overview of the gala event being announced at the May 15 press conference …

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Birgit Nilsson Foundation President Rutbert Reisch announced today that the Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2014 will be awarded to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Konserthuset (Stockholm Concert Hall) in Stockholm, Sweden on October 8, 2014 …

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Birgit Nilsson Foundation President Rutbert Reisch announced today that the Birgit Nilsson Prize for 2011 will be awarded to laureate Riccardo Muti at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, Sweden on October 13, 2011 in the presence of H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf and H.M. Queen Silvia …

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