Award Ceremony 2018 - The Birgit Nilsson Prize

The legendary Swedish dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson established a foundation for a prize to be awarded for outstanding achievement in opera and concert.

Birgit Nilsson

Award Ceremony 2018

Mistress of Ceremony
Artists Ceremony
Artist Gala Dinner

The 2018 Birgit Nilsson Prize Award Ceremony

[lead]On October 11, Nina Stemme received the 2018 Birgit Nilsson Prize at an Award Ceremony in the presence of H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf and H.M. Queen Silvia at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.[/lead] The program Following the entrance of Their Majesties, the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, American actress Mary Beth Peil, opened the Gala Ceremony. Rutbert Reisch, President of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, gave a welcoming speech and introduced Swedish Royal Academy President Susanne Rydén. Then, H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the Birgit Nilsson Prize to Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, who made an emotionally touching acceptance speech. In honour of the occasion, Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel performed arias from The Flying DutchmanDie Meistersinger and Falstaff with The Royal Swedish Orchestra under the direction of conductor Evan Rogister. Also performing with the Orchestra and Maestro Rogister was Swedish soprano Christina Nilsson who sang three Scandinavian songs. The laudatio was given by The Royal Swedish Opera’s CEO and Artistic Director Birgitta Svendén and a special laudatio was broadcast via video by Plácido Domingo, the 2009 Birgit Nilsson Prize recipient. The final note of the evening came from Birgit Nilsson herself with a recorded performance of her great Elektra (excerpt from the “Erkennungsszene”, i.e. “Traumbild, mir geschenktes Traumbild,….”). Following the Ceremony, the entire audience was invited to a cocktail reception at the Royal Opera hosted by the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. A Gala Dinner for invited guests was held in Nina Stemme’s honour, hosted by the Foundation at the Grand Hotel in the presence of H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf and H.M. Queen Silvia. The Norwegian pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes, performed at the Gala Dinner. About the Birgit Nilsson Prize The Birgit Nilsson Prize is dedicated to outstanding achievement in opera and concert. Many prominent figures from the music world, culture and politics will attend when Nina Stemme receives the Birgit Nilsson Prize of US $ 1 million. Nina Stemme was chosen by an international panel of opera experts from the countries where Birgit Nilsson was most active during her career.  

The Royal Swedish Opera - venue of the Birgit Nilsson Prize Award Ceremonies in 2009, 2011 and 2018 (2014 venue Concert Hall)

The Kungliga Operan or Royal Swedish Opera has been the venue of the Birgit Nilsson Prize Award Ceremonies in 2009, 2011 and 2018. Birgit Nilsson made her first appearance at the Royal Opera on 9 October 1946 in the role of Agathe in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz. She made her debut as Lady Macbeth the following year. For a decade Birgit Nilsson was a permanent member of the Royal Opera. Until 1981, she regularly performed at the opera house as a guest singer. The Royal Swedish Opera is the national stage for opera in Sweden. Over the years, it has launched the international careers of many outstanding opera singers. Jenny Lind, Jussi Björling and Birgit Nilsson are but a few of the legendary Swedish singers who once made their debuts at the Royal Opera. And the tradition continues with singers such as Nina Stemme, Katarina Dalayman, Peter Mattei and many more besides. The Royal Opera lies in the heart of Stockholm, opposite the Royal Palace. It was designed by Axel Johan Anderberg and completed in 1899. It is a majestic neo-classical building with a magnificent gold foyer and an elegant, grand marble staircase leading to a three-tiered auditorium. It seats 1,200 guests. Today the Royal Opera employs some 600 people on a permanent basis. Its orchestra, The Royal Opera Orchestra, counts 112 members and is Scandinavia's largest orchestra, as well as one of the oldest in the world, having originated in the 16th century. Birgitta Svendén has been the General Director of the Royal Swedish Opera since 2010. More information at
Mary Beth Peil Photo: Kristen Hoebermann Mary Beth Peil is known as a quintessential artist across many genres in the United States. Having begun her career as an opera / concert singer, she is now known as an actress of stage, screen and television. Following her early training in opera from Northwestern University, she sang leading roles with The Metropolitan Opera National Company, New York City Opera, Minnesota Opera, and the New York Philharmonic, with her favorite roles being Mimi, Michaela, Juliette and Pamina. She created the role of Alma in the world premiere of Summer and Smoke, music by Lee Hoiby with libretto of Lanford Wilson based on the Tennessee Williams play. Soon after singing Lilli in Kiss Me Kate at Minnesota Opera, she became the last Mrs. Anna to star with Yul Brynner in a Broadway revival, as well as touring company, of The King and I, earning her a Tony nomination. Other musicals include Broadway productions of Nine (Mama), A Little Night Music (Desiree), Sunday in the Park (Mother), Assassins (Sarah Jane), Follies (Solange), Women of the Verge (Concierge), and Anastasia (Dowager Empress) for which she received a Tony nomination. Additional theatre work includes working with many Off-Broadway companies in musicals and dramas. On screen she can be seen in The Odd Couple 2,The Stepford Wives 2, Flags of Our Fathers, Mirrors,The Contest and The Song of Sway Lake. Her television work includes Dawson’s Creek (Grams),The Good Wife (Jackie), as well as guest appearances on Law & Order, Law & Order SVU and Fringe.
Bryn Terfel Photo: Kristen Hoebermann Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel has established an extraordinary career, performing regularly on the prestigious concert stages and opera houses of the world. After winning the Song Prize at the 1989 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, Sir Bryn made his professional operatic debut in 1990 as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Welsh National Opera. He made his international operatic début in 1991 as Speaker in Die Zauberflöte at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, and made his American debut in the same year as Figaro with Santa Fe Opera. Other roles performed during his career include Mephistopheles in Faust; both the title role and Leporello in Don Giovanni; Jochanaan in Salome; Scarpia in Tosca; the title role in Gianni Schicchi; Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress; Wolfram in Tannhäuser; Balstrode in Peter Grimes; Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In 2015, Sir Bryn marked his 50th birthday and twentyfive years in the profession with a special Gala Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Hollywood star Michael Sheen. The celebrations continued at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre, where he sang Scarpia in a special concert performance of Tosca with the Welsh National Opera. This season, he will perform Sweeney Todd, and Holländer in Der fliegende Holländer for Zurich Opera; Falstaff at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and perform in the world premiere of an original show by Robat Arwyn and Mererid Hopwood – Hwn Yw Fy Mrawd – chronicling the life of the singer and film star Paul Robeson for the National Eisteddfod of Wales at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Operatic highlights to date include his debut in the role of Hans Sachs in the critically acclaimed production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Welsh National Opera; Wotan in The Ring Cycle at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, New York; his debut in the role of Reb Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof for Grange Park Opera and his debut in the role of Boris Godunov for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; the title role in Sweeney Todd for English National Opera and hosting a four-day festival, Brynfest, at the Southbank Centre, London, as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World. Equally at home on the concert platform, his highlights range from the opening ceremony of the Wales Millennium Centre, BBC Last Night of the Proms and the Royal Variety Show to a gala concert with Andrea Bocelli in New York’s Central Park, and for nine years he hosted his own festival in Faenol, North Wales. Concerts and recitals in 2018 include Aldeburgh Festival; the Classic BRIT Awards at the Royal Albert Hall; Canterbury Festival; Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; Oslo Opera House; Grieghallen, Bergen, and London’s Royal Festival Hall. Sir Bryn is a Grammy, Classic BRIT and Gramophone Award winner with a discography encompassing operas of Mozart, Wagner and Strauss, and more than fifteen solo discs including Lieder, American musical theatre, Welsh songs and sacred repertory. Bryn was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to opera in 2003, was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2006 and received a knighthood for his service to music in 2017. He was the last recipient of the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation, and in 2015 he was given The Freedom of the City of London. Evan Rogister Photo: Simon Pauly Evan Rogister is the newly appointed Principal Conductor of Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. A dual citizen of the United States and Germany, Evan Rogister enjoys meaningful artistic partnerships on both sides of the Atlantic. From 2018 to 2021, Rogister will lead Göteborg Opera’s first-ever complete cycle of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, beginning this fall with Das Rheingold and culminating in 2021, the 400th Anniversary of the city of Göteborg, with Götterdämmerung. In the 2018/2019 season, Evan also leads two projects with l’Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse conducting their series of New Year’s concerts and a new production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. He returns to the Deutsche Oper Berlin for Wagner’s Rienzi and leads concerts with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Rogister has the privilege of conducting The Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra at the 2018 Awards Ceremony of the Birgit Nilsson Prize in Stockholm. In the 2017/18 season, Rogister debuted at the Metropolitan Opera conducting Mozart’s The Magic Flute; Rogister returns to the MET in the 2021/22 season. He also made his Bolshoi Theatre debut in the summer of 2018, leading a new production of Puccini’s La Bohème. Rogister’s recent seasons include two other works by Wagner, Tannhäuser (Deutsche Oper Berlin) and Lohengrin (Royal Swedish Opera), a collaboration with Peter Stein on a new production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Malmö Opera), new productions of Eugene Onegin (Royal Swedish Opera and Spoleto Festival USA), Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung in double bill (Göteborg Opera and Seattle Opera); Szymanowski’s King Roger (The Santa Fe Opera), Verdi’s Otello (Berlin and Luxembourg), André Previn’s Streetcar Named Desire (Chicago Lyric Opera and L.A. Opera) and season opening productions at the Kennedy Center of Verdi’s Aida and Bizet’s Carmen, which marked the beginning of Washington National Opera’s 60th Anniversary Season. Recent symphonic projects include concerts with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington D.C.), the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, the Bochum Symphoniker, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Rogister’s debut recording with Deutsche Grammophon, Follow, Poet, was released in January of 2015. The album features new works by the composer Mohammed Fairouz written for mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, with Rogister conducting the Ensemble LPR. He majored in trombone and voice at Indiana University, followed by graduate studies in voice and conducting at The Juilliard School, where he now returns to lead projects with the school's orchestra. Houston Grand Opera's music director Patrick Summers created the position of Conducting Fellow especially for Rogister and he made his professional conducting debut at HGO in 2008 with Hänsel und Gretel. Donald Runnicles, music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, then invited Rogister to serve as Kapellmeister from 2009-2011. In Berlin, Rogister conducted a broad repertoire from Mozart to Wagner, including productions of Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Carmen, Otello, Hänsel und Gretel and Tannhaüser. Christina Nilsson Photo: Besim Mazhiqi The young Swedish soprano Christina Nilsson made her role debut as Aida last season at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, with great success and fantastic reviews. Christina also appeared in concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra at the Stockholm Concert Hall. She has been a guest at the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy where she performed Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. Christina will this winter sing her first Ariadne in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at Oper Frankfurt, followed by the same role at Opéra de Lausanne. She has previously appeared as Donna Anna in Min bror är Don Juan by W.A. Mozart / Niklas Brommare (an adaption / short version of Don Giovanni) at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Christina Nilsson was born in Ystad in Southern Sweden and moved to Stockholm when she began her studies at the Lilla Akademiens Musikgymnasium. After two years at Vadstena folkhögskola she began her studies at the University College of Opera in Stockholm from where she got her Master’s degree in June 2017. In 2016 Christina Nilsson received the First prize as well as the Audience’s prize of the Wilhelm Stenhammar International Competition, and she was awarded the First prize in the Renata Tebaldi International Voice Competition of 2017. Christina received the Birgit Nilsson Scholarship of 2015,and in 2014 she was awarded the Jenny Lind Scholarship which included a concert tour in the United States and Canada. Christina has also received scholarships from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Leif Ove Andsnes Photo: Gregor Hohenberg The New York Times calls Leif Ove Andsnes “a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight,” and the Wall Street Journal names him “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.” With his commanding technique and searching interpretations, the celebrated Norwegian pianist has won acclaim worldwide,playing concertos and recitals in the world’s leading concert halls and with its foremost orchestras, while building an esteemed and extensive discography. An avid chamber musician, he is the founding director of the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival, was co-artistic director of the Risør Festival of Chamber Music for nearly two decades, and served as music director of California’s Ojai Music Festival in 2012. He was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in July 2013, and received honorary doctorates from New York’s Juilliard School and Norway’s University of Bergen in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Andsnes launches his 2018-19 season with the release on Sony Classics of Chopin: Ballades & Nocturnes, his first recording of the composer’s music in more than a decade. After headlining the Bergen Philharmonic’s season-opening concerts with Britten, he turns his focus to Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, which he performs with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra under Edward Gardner and tours with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Herbert Blomstedt in Germany, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in Italy, and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSB) and Vladimir Jurowski in Asia. The pianist reunites with Jurowski and the RSB for Mozart, whose concertos are also the focus for his returns to the Munich Philharmonic,Budapest Festival Orchestra, and Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO), with which he tours Germany,France, and Portugal. The tour marks the launch of “Mozart Momentum 1785/86,” a major new multiseason project that sees Andsnes and the MCO explore one of the most creative and seminal periods of the composer’s career, through concert and festival performances on three continents. Showcasing Mozart’s transformative role in the development of the piano concerto, they look forward to presenting a rich portrait of the Classical master at the top of his game. In recital this season, besides joining baritone Matthias Goerne for Schubert lieder in Paris, Essen, and Barcelona, the pianist debuts a colorful solo program of Schumann, Bartók and Janáček. After dates in Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, Florence, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, this takes him on a North American tour with stops in Boston, San Francisco, La Jolla, Montreal, Philadelphia, Chicago, and at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He then returns to Norway for his fourth summer at the helm of the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival. A frequent collaborator with the New York Philharmonic, Andsnes was the orchestra’s 2017-18 Artist-in-Residence, giving a solo recital at David Geffen Hall and joining the Philharmonic for Britten’s Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Fourth, and Debussy’s Fantaisie. All three works figured prominently in his season’s programming with other orchestras, including the Tonhalle Zurich, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Bavarian Radio Symphony, and New World Symphony. In recital, he toured such key European cities as London, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Madrid, Milan, and Amsterdam with a program featuring Sibelius rarities, which were also the subject of the new Billboard best-selling Sony Classical solo album, Sibelius. Andsnes’s summer engagements included a residency at his own Rosendal festival, where guest artists included Matthias Goerne, Anna Prohaska,Bertrand Chamayou, Kirill Gerstein, and the Dover Quartet. Perhaps the Norwegian pianist’s most ambitious achievement to date is “The Beethoven Journey,” his epic four-season focus on the master composer’s music for piano and orchestra, which took him to 108 cities in 27 countries for more than 230 live performances. He led the Mahler Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard in complete Beethoven concerto cycles at high-profile residencies in Bonn, Hamburg, Lucerne, Vienna, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Bodø, and London, besides collaborating with such leading international ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, London Philharmonic,and Munich Philharmonic. The project was chronicled in the documentary Concerto – A Beethoven Journey (2016) and Andsnes’s partnership with the MCO was captured on the hit Sony Classical three-volume series The Beethoven Journey. The first volume was named iTunes’ Best Instrumental Album of 2012 and awarded Belgium’s Prix Caecilia, the second recognized with BBC Music’s coveted “2015 Recording of the Year Award,” and the complete series chosen as one of the “Best of 2014” by the New York Times. Andsnes now records exclusively for Sony Classical. His previous discography comprises more than 30 discs for EMI Classics – solo, chamber, and concerto releases, many of them bestsellers – spanning repertoire from the time of Bach to the present day. He has been nominated for eight Grammys and awarded many international prizes, including six Gramophone Awards. His recordings of the music of his compatriot Edvard Grieg have been especially celebrated: the New York Times named Andsnes’s 2004 recording of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic a “Best CD of the Year,” the Penguin Guide awarded it a coveted “Rosette,” and both that album and his disc of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces won Gramophone Awards. His recording of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 18 was another New York Times “Best of the Year” and Penguin Guide “Rosette” honoree. He won yet another Gramophone Award for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 with Antonio Pappano and the Berlin Philharmonic. A series of recordings of Schubert’s late sonatas, paired with lieder sung by Ian Bostridge, inspired lavish praise, as did the pianist’s world-premiere recordings of Marc-André Dalbavie’s Piano Concerto and Bent Sørensen’s The Shadows of Silence, both of which were written for him. Besides his solo album Sibelius, the 2017-18 season saw the release of Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring & other works for two pianos four hands. Recorded with Marc-André Hamelin for the Hyperion label, this received sensational reviews and has been hotly tipped for many upcoming awards. Andsnes has received Norway’s distinguished honor, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, and in 2007, he received the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, awarded by members of parliament to honor prominent Norwegians for their achievements in politics, sports, and culture. In 2004-05, he became the youngest musician (and first Scandinavian) to curate Carnegie Hall’s “Perspectives” series, and in 2015-16 he was the subject of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Artist Portrait Series. He is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist Award and the Gilmore Artist Award, and,saluting his many achievements, Vanity Fair named Andsnes one of the “Best of the Best” in 2005. Leif Ove Andsnes was born in Karmøy, Norway in 1970, and studied at the Bergen Music Conservatory under the renowned Czech professor Jirí Hlinka. He has also received invaluable advice from the Belgian piano teacher Jacques de Tiège who, like Hlinka, has greatly influenced his style and philosophy of playing. He is currently an Artistic Adviser for the Prof. Jirí Hlinka Piano Academy in Bergen where he gives an annual masterclass to participating students. Andsnes lives in Bergen with his partner and their three children.


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