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Conductor Riccardo Muti wins Birgit Nilsson Prize, plus a cool million

March 16, 2011 |  2:05 pm


One of the top awards in the field of classical music, the Birgit Nilsson Prize honors singers and conductors for their career achievements. Plácido Domingo was the first recipient of the award in 2009. On Wednesday, organizers announced that Italian conductor Riccardo Muti has been awarded the prize for "his extraordinary contributions in opera and concert, as well as his enormous influence in the music world both on and off the stage."

The prize, which comes with a $1-million award, is handed out once every two or three years. Muti is scheduled to receive his award at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 13.

Muti, 69, has led many major orchestras around the world during his lengthy career. He began his tenure as the music director the Chicago Symphony in 2010. However, his inaugural season was disrupted in February when he fell from a podium, sustaining injuries that required surgery. 

The prize was created by the celebrated Swedish soprano, who died in 2005. Award recipients are decided by the Birgit Nilsson Foundation Board, based on the recommendation of an international jury.

The 2011 jury members included five individuals from the U.S. and Europe: Speight Jenkins, general director of the Seattle Opera; Rupert Christiansen, opera critic of the Daily Telegraph; Eva Wagner-Pasquier, co-director of the Bayreuth Festival; Clemens Hellsberg, president of the Vienna Philharmonic; and Bengt Hall, managing director of the Malmö Opera in Sweden.


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-- David Ng

Photo (top): Riccardo Muti. Credit: Sigi Tischler / Associated Press

Photo (bottom): Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Credit: Robert Millard / Los Angeles Opera