Entertainment & Arts

Riccardo Muti wins $1m Birgit Nilsson Prize

Riccardo Muti
Image caption Riccardo Muti is currently conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Italian conductor Riccardo Muti has been awarded the $1 million (£624,000) Birgit Nilsson Prize - the biggest prize in classical music.

Muti, currently the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was recognised "for his extraordinary contributions in opera and concert".

The 69-year-old said he was "deeply touched" when he heard he had been chosen for the "distinguished" award.

Muti will receive the prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on 13 October.

The conductor is the second recipient of the prize awarded by a foundation established after the death of opera singer Birgit Nilsson.

Winners are chosen by the foundation and a jury of at least five members, which this year included the president of the Vienna Philharmonic, the co-director of the Bayreuth Festival and The Daily Telegraph's opera critic Rupert Christiansen.

'Incomparable musician'

"Maestro Muti is being recognised 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.

Foundation president Rutbert Reisch said he did not believe Nilsson and Muti ever worked together, but that the two "had a lot of respect for each other's work".

In a statement, Muti said: "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 has also been conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Teatro alla Scala.

Last week, the conductor defied doctors' advice and took to the stage at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera just five weeks after heart surgery following a fall from the podium while rehearsing in Chicago.

The Birgit Nilsson Prize was first awarded in 2009 to Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.

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