Léonie Sonning Prize 1998

Hildegard Behrens

The German soprano Hildegard Behrens received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 300,000 at a concert held at 7.30pm on Saturday, 6 June 1998 in Tivoli Concert Hall.

The music prize was presented by Poul Jørgensen, head of The Royal Danish Orchestra.

The programme

Richard Wagner Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
  Final scene from Twilight of the Gods
Richard Strauss Macbeth, musical poem based on Shakespeare
  Final scene from Salome

Tivoli Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Michael Schønwandt


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize for 1998 is awarded to Hildegard Behrens for her artistically deeply thought-through and many-facetted portraits of the greatest earlier and contemporary dramatic soprano parts of the literature of opera. By virtue of her powerful and beautiful voice, intensity and presence on stage, her strong charisma and authority, Hildegard Behrens has been normative in opera houses all over the world for her generation’s understanding and interpretation of these high-dramatic roles that are so demanding in terms of vocal, musical and theatrical challenge.

Hildegard Behrens in Denmark

When Hildegard Behrens arrived on 2 June 1998, she proved not to be a German-American diva with airs and graces but a sweet, engaged person who was incredibly pleased at having been asked to receive the music prize. "It was strange to see first a humbly flattered, almost shy and very happy Behrens express her gratitude for the prize and then, at the next moment, experience her as a dramatically fascinating and sensual Salome. Or, for that matter, as the proud Brünnhilde, her voice full of power and richness," Jakob Wivel wrote in Jyllands-Posten, […]

Selected Music by Hildegard Behrens

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"[…] she still has a great deal to drawn on, including a rich, full-strength sound that seems to be right on target, as well as a intensity of expression that is admirable. And her charisma on stage has absolutely not diminished over the years, so she gave amply in return for the prize she received [...]

[...] and it is pleasing to note that her dramatic and stage skills were a crucial factor in the decision taken to award her the Sonning Music Prize."

(Jakob Wivel, Jyllands-Posten, 8 June 1998)

"The 61-year-old soprano has fully retained its brilliant firmness and carrying power: The quivering top register is overwhelming, the metallically reverberating deep register virtually unique, and the freedom of movement without any restrictions. She can lift a phrase so that the listener feels lifted out of his or her seat, and she also masters the gentlest intimacy with a powerful inner gleam in her voice. And then she has a charisma that penetrates deep into the characterisation."

(Jan Jacoby, Politiken, 8 June 1998)