© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
WFAE 90.7
P.O. Box 896890
Charlotte, NC 28289-6890
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Placido Domingo Wins $1 Million Opera Prize

In what's billed as the "biggest prize in classical music history," tenor Placido Domingo was named winner of the first-ever $1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize Friday. The award is named for the late Swedish soprano, who set up a foundation to award a prize every second or third year.

"She wanted to honor one of the greatest opera singers of all time, whose contributions to the world of opera and concert are unrivaled," says Rutbert Reisch, president of the Birgit Nilsson Foundation.

For more than four decades, the 68-year-old Domingo has been one of the world's most acclaimed and active opera singers, with nearly 130 operatic roles to his credit. He directs two opera companies (Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera) and an international vocal competition, and he conducts in concert halls and opera houses worldwide.

Although the winner was only just announced, Nilsson told Reisch privately as long ago as the late 1990s that Domingo was to be the recipient. Nilsson sealed the winner's name in an envelope and stipulated that it not be opened until three years after her death in 2005.

Nilsson sang with Domingo for the first time at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1969, in Puccini's Tosca.

"Placido acquitted himself splendidly," Nilsson once said, according to her foundation. "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."

Reisch said that Domingo, when he learned the news late Thursday, had been "very touched, very moved, because the recognition by a legend in the same field that he is in, of course, carries special weight."

Nilsson herself was one of the great opera singers of the past century. She made her debut at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm in 1946, and quickly became the world's leading interpreter of Wagner, making her Metropolitan debut in 1959 in her signature role of Tristan und Isolde.

A prize ceremony is planned for later this year in Stockholm.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.