Queen Sonja International Music Competition

The Queen Sonja International Music Competition is a music competition for young singers taking place every two years in Oslo, Norway. The competition was arranged for the first time in 1988. The next competition is held from 12 – 21 August 2015. The Competition is open for singers under 32 years. The participants in the competition are selected by a national screening committee on the basis of recordings submitted in the application process. 40 singers are invited to the competition in Oslo. The competition program includes preliminary rounds, semifinal and final, as well as masterclasses, concert and social events.


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition was founded in 1988. Among the initiators was Mariss Jansons, former music director and chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1988 the Norwegian classical music scene was experiencing a period of increasing internationalization. The goal of the competition was to create an international music arena in Norway which would promote young musicians, give Norwegian soloists an opportunity to be assessed on an international level, and build awareness abroad about the field of Norwegian classical music.[1] The Competition was created as a joint project between a number of leading Norwegian music institutions, such as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Norwegian Academy of Music, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), The Lindeman Foundation and the Norwegian Society for Soloists.

The first competition was held for pianists in 1988. The first two competitions were organized for pianists. Marking the centenary of the birth of Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad in 1995, the competition has since then been arranged for singers. Until 2007 national competitions were arranged prior to the international competition.

The competition is currently arranged every two years in cooperation with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Norwegian Academy of Music and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The competition usually receives between 150-200 applications from singers from around the world. The invited singers are usually newly graduated singers who are ready to embark on their international careers.

The Competition aims to serve as a stepping stone for the participants’ future careers. Previous prize winners can document rapid career development and international recognition. Previous prize winners include, among others, Argentinian soprano Virginia Tola (1999), German tenor Daniel Behle (2005), Russian soprano Olga Mykytenko (2003), Canadian soprano Maesha Brueggergosman (2001) and Norwegian baritone Audun Iversen (2007).


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition is organised as a foundation. The foundation is headed by a Board of Directors. The Council of the Competition consists of representatives from the founding institutions. The members of the Board of Directors are Einar Solbu (chair of the board), Kari Selte Tybring-Gjedde, Svein Bjørkøy, Lars A. Christensen og Per Boye Hansen.

The Council currently consists of Peter Tornquist (dean, the Norwegian Academy of Music), Toril Carlsen (Norwegian Society for Soloists), Arild Erikstad (NRK), Cecile Broch Knudsen (dean, Oslo Academy of the Arts), Ingrid Røynesdal (director, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra), Tom Remlov (director, The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet), Anne Marie Tannæs (City of Oslo), og Frederik Zimmer (The Lindeman Foundation).


1st prize: € 20 000

2nd prize: € 10 000

3rd prize: € 5 000

Two finalist prizes: € 1 500

Prize for the best performance of Norwegian music: € 1 500

The Ingrid Bjoner Scholarship (awarded to the best Norwegian competitor): NOK 50 000

In addition prize winners receive engagements with Norwegian orchestras and opera companies.


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition’s main contributors are the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the City of Oslo. The Competition also receives private funding from Eckbos Legater, Formuesforvaltning AS, Stein Erik Hagen Charitable Foundation, Lucy Høegh Foundation, Sat Sapienti and Anders Sveaas’ Almennyttige Fond.

Collaborating Opera Academies

The Queen Sonja International Music Competition collaborates with leading opera academies in Europe and the US. The collaborating academies nominate two or three of their singers to the competition. These singers are admitted directly to the preliminary rounds of the competition in Oslo and do not have to go through the regular application procedure.

In 2013 the collaborating opera academies were

Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Royal Opera House, London

Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Metropolitan Opera, New York

The Opera Studio, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich

Internationales Operastudio, Opernhaus Zürich, Zürich

Young Artists Opera Programme, Bolshoi Opera, Moscow

Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago


The jury of the Queen Sonja International Music Competition consists of leading figures in the opera world. The jury usually has seven members and includes both professional opera singers and opera directors from around the world. After the preliminary round each jury member votes for 12 contestants to proceed to the semifinal. After the semifinal the jury members vote for five candidates who proceed to the final. After the final each jury member ranks the finalists from 1 to 5. The finalist with the lowest number is the Competition’s 1st prize winner. Each jury member submits his or her votes in writing, without revealing them to the other jury members. The jury’s verdict is final.

Jury 2013

Sophie de Lint, chair of the jury, Opera Director at Opernhaus Zürich

Dame Felicity Palmer, mezzosoprano (UK)

Carol Vaness, soprano (USA)

Wolfgang Holzmair, baritone (Austria)

Kasper Holten, Opera Director at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Pål Christian Moe, artistic advisor for the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet

Sven Müller, Opera Director at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen


  1. ^ http://www.qsimc.no
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