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New $1M US classical music prize announced in Sweden

Late soprano Birgit Nilsson conceived of the award years ago

Last Updated: Friday, December 5, 2008 | 4:25 PM ET

Birgit Nilsson, dressed for her star turn as Tosca, at New York's Metropolitan Opera in October 1968.Birgit Nilsson, dressed for her star turn as Tosca, at New York's Metropolitan Opera in October 1968. (Associated Press)

A lucrative, international classical music prize has been established, thanks to late Swedish opera star Birgit Nilsson, who died in 2005.

The Birgit Nilsson Foundation announced Friday the launch of a $1 million US prize to honour outstanding achievements in international opera and concert performance.

According to organizers, Nilsson herself had planned for the creation of the prize years before her passing and had even selected the first winner — who will be named in early 2009.

They added that the singer had placed the inaugural winner's name in a sealed envelope and requested that the prize not be announced until three years after her death.

Singers, directors or opera companies are all eligible for the new award, which some are likening to a Nobel Prize for music. It is also billed as the largest prize in the world of classical music.

Prominent classical world peers to judge future editions

Subsequent winners will be selected by a jury of prominent figures in the international classical music scene.

The prize is slated to be awarded every two or three years.

Nilsson, famed as the greatest Wagnerian soprano of her era, had a nearly 40-year career that brought her to the world's top opera stages. She established her namesake charitable foundation in the late 1980s.

The Swedish music icon died in December 2005 at the age of 87.

With files from the Associated Press
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