My nuanced sarcasm about the award of the $1 million dollar Birgit Nilsson prize "for outstanding achievement" to Plácido Domingo in 2009 and Riccardo Muti in 2011 prompted the following comment from Andrew Patner:
'The "they" here is Miss Nilsson who wanted, with her own money, to create a prize for mature opera and concert artists and institutions. She chose Domingo herself to be the first winner, to be named in 2009 after her death. A jury, following her criteria, selected Muti as the second recipient. Her foundation also supports young artists, several of whom performed at the gala dinner following the award of the prize in Stockholm last week. There is plenty of information (as well as video and audio material, recent and archival) at the foundation's website: http://www.birgitnilssonprize.org/ 'Unlike Andrew I did not have the benefit of a trip from Chicago, where Muti is the orchestra's music director, to Stockholm to file an exclusive report on the prize giving for the Chicago Sun Times and his explanation that the foundation also supports young artists is therefore appreciated. But my remark was prompted by the following comment from John Mclaughlin Williams, who is closer to the coal face than most:
'When one thinks about the good that money could have done if awarded elsewhere besides another millionaire conductor...'I also hold the view that not only does awarding very large amounts of money to established artists bring little benefit to classical music as a whole, but it also reinforces the widespread misconception that classical music is rich and elitist - see the typical media coverage above. Domingo and Muti may well use some, or all, the money to benefit others. But, if this is the case, would not the Birgit Nilsson Prize be far more beneficial if it was $1 million to be awarded by the winner to not yet established musicians of their choice?
However, I am always happy to be proved wrong. Please add your views as comments, and to give the less well rewarded 99% a voice there will be a voting widget on the question 'Are $1 million music prizes a good thing?' alongside this article until 28th October.
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