20 February 2009

Plácido Domingo Named as Inaugural Recipient of One Million Dollar Birgit Nilsson Prize

Plácido Domingo has been named as the inaugural recipient of the Birgit Nilsson Prize, an award carrying a one million dollar purse, making it the largest prize in classical music and opera. Bestowed by the foundation the late Swedish soprano established in the 1980s, the prize intends to recognize outstanding achievement in the international field of opera and concert every second or third year.

Nilsson, who died in 2005, selected Domingo to be the first winner of the award herself, but news of the prize's conferring had not been made public prior to today's announcement. Domingo will receive the Birgit Nilsson Prize during an award ceremony to be held in Stockholm in late 2009.

"She wanted to honor one of the greatest opera singers of all time, whose contributions to the world of opera and concert are unrivaled," said Prof. Rutbert Reisch, president of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, in a statement issued by the foundation today. "With her choice of the first winner she also expressed the purpose of her Prize, which is to award outstanding achievements in the performing arts."

"How do I express how deeply honored I am, how personally touched I feel, and how very much this prize means to me?" Domingo said. "Over the years I have been privileged to receive some wonderful tributes from world leaders and respected professional organizations for which I am most grateful, and I can say without hesitation, that this commendation from Birgit is one of my highest achievements. [...] To be honored by such an esteemed colleague means everything to me - because Birgit was, in addition to being a musical legend with a God- given singing voice, she was a total professional. Birgit Nilsson had complete discipline and stamina, as well as a razor sharp wit. Birgit personified musical excellence and that's why she was a role model for me even before we sang together."

Domingo, who next month celebrates the fortieth anniversary of his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in a gala that will also mark the company's 125th anniversary, first sang with Nilsson in a Met matinee performance of Tosca on February 15, 1969.

"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," Nilsson later remarked about the Tosca performance.

Since his debut, Domingo has opened the Metropolitan Opera's season twenty one times, and has amassed a repertoire of some 130 different roles over the span of his career. A tireless figure in the world of opera, the prize is also meant to recognize Domingo's accomplishments as a conductor, administrator and producer of young artist programs and competitions. The tenor has previously been awarded honors that have included the United States Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, France's Legion of Honor, England's Honorary Knighthood of the British Empire, an Honorary Doctorate from Oxford University and President Mikhail Gorbachev's World Award for Humanitarian Causes.

Per the provisions of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, subsequent recipients of the Birgit Nilsson Prize will be determined by a jury consisting of prominent figures in the classical music field and may be bestowed upon singers in the fields of opera, concert and/or oratorio performance; conductors of classical music and/or opera; and specific productions by companies that have been outstandingly cast, conducted and staged in the spirit of the composer.

More information can be found at The Birgit Nilsson Prize and the Official Website of Plácido Domingo.

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