Awarding any individual the princely sum of one million dollars should always be a solemn and complex responsibility. But writing here as a member of the jury in question, I can confirm that there was never much doubt that the soprano Nina Stemme would be the worthy winner of the 2018 Birgit Nilsson Prize – a bounty popularly known as "the Nobel of classical music", announced in Stockholm this morning, and by far the largest such honour made to anyone in the performing arts anywhere in the world.
Stemme has long been familiar to British audiences, being perhaps most celebrated for her marvellous interpretation of Wagner’s Isolde at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden, as well as several appearances at the BBC Proms, where she sang the coveted "Rule, Britannia" slot at Last Night in 2017. She returns to Covent Garden in the autumn to sing the heroic Brünnhilde in the Ring cycle, a role that currently stands at the heart of her repertory.
Why was Stemme chosen for this great accolade? Most of all, of course, on account of superb artistry, grounded in a grandly scaled soprano voice that can scale the fearsome heights of the most physically demanding music that Wagner or Richard Strauss put to paper.