The Birgit Nilsson Scholarship

First awarded in 1973, the intent of the Birgit Nilsson Scholarship is to enable advanced vocal studies for young, promising singers who carry on Birgit Nilsson’s tradition.

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Birgit Nilsson and Gitta-Maria Sjöberg in the church of Västra Karup, 1988.

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Birgit Nilsson and Monica Persson in the church of Västra Karup, 1984.

Professor and Royal Court Singer Birgit Nilsson’s Scholarship was founded in December 1969, in memory of Birgit Nilsson's former voice teacher Ragnar Blennow from Åstorp. The starting capital was SEK 15 000, a sum retained from a performance of Tosca at the Malmö City Theater on December 12, 1969. This corresponds to just over SEK 100 000 today. The first scholarship was awarded in 1973, but it was not regularly recurring until 1984. In the beginning it was awarded in Malmö. Then, from 1984 to 2002, it was most frequently awarded at the celebrated Birgit Nilsson concerts in the church of Västra Karup, located near her birthplace on the Bjäre peninsula. In 2012, the scholarship was for the first time awarded at the Malmö Opera, where it is planned to be awarded in the coming years as well.

The Birgit Nilsson Scholarship recipients

Among the recipients of the Birgit Nilsson Scholarship are some of Sweden's most gifted singers, for example Nina Stemme, Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, Hillevi Martinpelto, Anders Larsson, Karl-Magnus Fredriksson, and Anna Larsson. The last scholarship recipient to receive it from Birgit Nilsson herself was Susanne Resmark, in 2002. Birgit Nilsson passed away on December 25, 2005, whereupon the awarding of the scholarship was resumed in 2006, at a memorial concert. The singers Michael Weinius and John Lundgren were elected as recipients that year. In 2016, the scholarship was awarded to the bass singer Henning von Schulman. The Board of the Scholarship Foundation elected the two sopranos Hanna Husáhr and Alexandra Büchel to receive the scholarship in 2017. On May 13, it was awarded to them at the Malmö Opera. On May 12, 2018, the soprano Elisabeth Meyer and the tenor Tobias Westman received the Birgit Nilssom Scholarship. In 2018, we celebrate Birgit Nilsson's centenary, and to mark this, the scholarship sum was doubled so that the recipients were awarded SEK 100 000 each. Elisabeth Meyer has recently sung Mina in Dracula at the Royal Opera, where she also has had the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Adèle in Die Fledermaus. At the Malmö Opera she has sung Pamina in The Magic Flute. Tobias Westman graduated from the University College of Opera in 2015. Amongst other roles, he has sung Don Ottavio in the Royal Opera's production My brother is Don Juan. In the opera tours of the Malmö Opera, he has sung Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia, and Pinkerton in Butterfly. Here you can download a complete list of the Birgit Nilsson Scholarship recipients from 1973 to 2018.

Board of Directors for the Foundation

Birgit Nilsson became Honorary Chairperson of the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, and remained so until her death in 2005. Acting Chairman was Licentiate of Philosophy Sten Broman. Other board members were Royal Court Singer Sigurd Björling, Professor Uno Ebrelius, and Director of the Malmö City Theater, Gösta Folke. After Sten Broman’s death he was succeeded by Consul General Olof Sjöström, who in turn was succeeded by the present Chairman, Bengt Hall, managing and artistic Director of Malmö Opera. The Board also includes the opera singer and founder of the Dalhalla Opera Festival, Margareta Dellefors, Director Hans Lindblad, dentist Karin Hjalmers, and Gunnar Olsson.