The million-dollar prize founded by the legendary Swedish soprano was handed over by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf in a ceremony at Stockholm’s Royal Opera house.
“This is comparable to the Nobel prize of music,” Domingo said afterwards, adding that he had won many awards in his long career but this was “without hesitation the highest and the most emotional.”
The Swedish soprano had before her death in 2005 secretly chosen Domingo to be the first winner of her opera prize.
Repeating that “it’s very, very, very emotional,” Domingo announced that he would use the unprecedented award to create a “special Birgit Nilsson prize in opera to the best Wagnerian singer” under an international opera competition, Operalia, that he founded in 1993.
Domingo was chosen for the prize for “outstanding achievements in the international field of opera and concert” due to his legendary four decade-long career during which he has sung “130 different roles, more than any other tenor in history,” the Birgit Nilsson foundation said.
Nilsson, who died on December 25, 2005 at the age of 87, first sang with Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera in 1969 in a matinee production of “Tosca”, after which she praised his “superb” acting and “gorgeous singing.”
Nilsson’s most famous role was that of Isolde in Richard Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde”, with which she took La Scala by storm in 1956 and established her credentials as one of the 20th century’s great Wagnerian sopranos.
Nilsson made her last public appearance in 1984 and published her autobiography “La Nilsson” in 1995.
The prize will be handed out every three years and “exceptionally two years”, foundation president Rutbert Reish said, adding that a “certain amount of flexibility” was necessary.