Soprano wins top prize in memory of Swedish opera legend

Swedish opera singer Nina Stemme has won the one-million dollar prize awarded in memory of the Nordic nation's legendary soprano Birgit Nilsson.

Soprano wins top prize in memory of Swedish opera legend
Legendary Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson in 1973. Photo: Olle Lindeborg/TT

The prize, one of the largest in the world of classical music, is given every three or four years to recognize the achievements of an active artist in the field.

Stemme was honoured “for her interpretations of the dramatic soprano repertoire with her respect for the composer's intentations, her tireless dedication to the dramatic soprano repertoire, and for being a great Wagnerian soprano of today”, the jury said in a statement.

The Birgit Nilsson Prize was founded by the singer herself before she died in 2005 aged 87 with hopes of inspiring young artists to reach their full potential.

One of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos of the 20th century, Nilsson, the daughter of a Swedish farmer, made her breakthrough at Milan's legendary La Scala as the cold Princess Turandot in 1958.

“It is a great honour to be recognized for my work, but it is even greater to be recognized in my home country by a world-renowned organization that bears the name and carries the legacy of a legend… my idol Birgit Nilsson,” Stemme, who is the fourth to win the prize, said in a statement.

Nina Stemme. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The 55-year-old performed as Isolde twice (2005 and 2006) in Richard Wagner's opera 'Tristan und Isolde' at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany and also appeared in Giacomo Puccini's 'Turandot' and in Richard Strauss' 'Elektra'.

In 2013, she won the International Opera Award for the Best Female Singer.

Previous laureates include Spain's Placido Domingo (2009), his Italian counterpart Riccardo Muti (2011) and the Vienna Philharmonic (2014).

Stemme will receive her award in the presence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at an October 11th ceremony in Stockholm.

The prize jury includes Wagner's great-granddaughter Eva Wagner-Pasquier, who is also the former co-director of the Bayreuth Festival, and former president of the Vienna Philharmonic, Clemens Hellsberg.

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Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage

One of Hitchcock's most acclaimed films, Notorious, will arrive to The Gothenburg Opera this autumn in what is believed to be a world first.

Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
The Gothenburg Opera. Photo: Torbjörn Skogedal/Image Bank Sweden

The Gothenburg Opera's resident composer Hans Gefors, along with librettist Kerstin Perski, is set to bring Hitchcock's highly acclaimed movie to life at the 1,300 seats opera house in 2015.

Often nicknamed "the master of suspense", famous English director Alfred Hitchcock, who moved to Hollywood and became a US citizen in 1955, was a pioneer in the thriller genre with movies such as Vertigo, Psycho, and of course Notorious.

“I have always been interested in Hitchcock because he hides stories within stories – what seem to be simple stories have deep meaning behind them. Notorious is a thriller, but it’s also a love story. A complicated love story,” Gefors explained on why choosing a Hitchcock film.
The 1946 film Notorious was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the All­Time 100 best films, and stars Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman one of Hitchcock’s favourite muses and considered to be one of the greatest female stars in Hollywood history.
“We have worked hard to get away from the movie. Opera is much different from movies,” said Gefors, adding that expectations are high, ahead of the curtains going up on the stage show on September 19th.
“After this, I hope we remember the opera and not the movie. This is my ambition," he told The Local.
When asked if the crowd would embrace a Hitchcock inspired opera, Gefors argued: “This is hard to say, I think there is a need and a want for new operas. One could say that movies took over for the operas in the
beginning of the 20th century, but now this is changing.”
It's the first time a Hitchcock movie has been turned into an opera in Sweden, and possibly even a world first, said Gefors.
“This is an international dream team of opera singers, even though they are all Swedish. It is a dream come true to work with them," he added.
Notorious ‘The Opera’ is scheduled to run until November 1st, 2015.