Italian maestro wins $1M Birgit Nilsson Prize

Associated Press
FILE - This Sept. 8, 2008 file photo shows Maestro Riccardo Muti leading the Vienna Philharmonics, in Lucerne, Switzerland. It isn't every day that a conductor concedes an encore for an opera chorus. Even rarer is asking the audience to sing it, but maestro Riccardo Muti has just done so for the love of homeland. Muti swirled about on his podium late Saturday, March 12, 2011 to face the audience during Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco'' at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera when shouts of "bis!'' (encore!) rang out.  (AP Photo/Keystone, Sigi Tischler, file)
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FILE - This Sept. 8, 2008 file photo shows Maestro Riccardo Muti leading the Vienna Philharmonics, in Lucerne, Switzerland. It isn't every day that a conductor concedes an encore for an opera chorus. Even rarer is asking the audience to sing it, but maestro Riccardo Muti has just done so for the love of homeland. Muti swirled about on his podium late Saturday, March 12, 2011 to face the audience during Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco'' at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera when shouts of "bis!'' (encore!) rang out.

The Italian conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday was awarded the $1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize for his "extraordinary" contributions and influence in the world of music.

Riccardo Muti, age 69, has also been conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Teatro alla Scala.

"Maestro Muti is being recognized 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 jury said.

He is the second winner of the prize from the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, established after the 2005 death of Nilsson, one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos.

Muti said he was moved when he heard he had been chosen for the "distinguished" award.

"I was deeply touched by the jury's accolade, all the more so given my profound admiration for this unique and extraordinary artist, both as an incomparable musician and as a great interpreter," Muti said in a a statement.

Foundation President and close friend of Nilsson, Rutbert Reisch, said Muti "personifies and exemplifies all of the qualities that were so important to Birgit Nilsson — extraordinary work, dedication and passion for music over many decades."

Muti will receive the prize in the presence of Sweden's King XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at the Royal Opera in Stockholm on Oct. 13.

The prize was first awarded to Spanish tenor Placido Domingo in 2009, a laureate Nilsson had picked herself.

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