Placido Domingo Wins $1 Million Opera Prize

Domingo Sings

Domingo first sang the role of Otello in 1975. He first sang the lead in "Un Ballo en Maschera" in 1967.

Otello, opera

5 min 20 sec
 

Nilsson Sings

Birgit Nilsson

Birgit Nilsson in the title role of Puccini's Turandot. Fotostudio Fayer, Vienna hide caption

itoggle caption Fotostudio Fayer, Vienna
Placido Domingo

Tenor Placido Domingo is the first winner of the Birgit Nilsson Prize for outstanding achievement in opera. Sheila Rock hide caption

itoggle caption Sheila Rock

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.

Related NPR Stories

Purchase Featured Music

Verdi: The Tenor Arias

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Verdi: The Tenor Arias
Artist
Plácido Domingo
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
2001

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Ritorna vincitor!

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Ritorna vincitor!
Artist
Birgit Nilsson
Label
Decca
Released
2003

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.