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Barbara Hendricks

Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 2000

Barbara Hendricks (Stephens, Arkansas, USA, 1948) resident in Europe since 1977, holds Swedish citizenship. Of humble origins, her first contact with music was as a jazz and gospel singer in the choir of her neighbourhood’s Methodist Church, where her father was minister. She studied Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduating in 1969. She subsequently studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music, New York.

In 1974, she made her debut at San Francisco Opera House in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Popea and then launched her international career, performing with the world’s most prestigious opera companies. Her repertoire includes over twenty operas, as well as American musicals, French chanson and Negro spirituals. She has sung oratorio with the world’s major conductors, such as Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Sir Colin Davis, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Herbert von Karajan, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Metha, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sir George Solti and Herbert von Karajan. She is also an acclaimed jazz singer, a genre in which she made her debut in 1994 at the Montreux Festival. Since then, she has performed regularly at renowned jazz festivals worldwide alongside the Magnus Lindgren Quartet. In 2000, she premiered A Mölna Elegy by Sven-David Sandström, a work commissioned by her for the Gotland Chamber Music Festival (Sweden).

Tireless in her fight for human rights, she is a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador. She has visited refugee camps in countries such as Zambia, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. Her special concern for the fate of the people of former Yugoslavia led her to give solidarity concerts in Dubrovnik (1991) and Sarajevo (1993), where she performed wearing a bullet-proof vest. She is also Special Advisor on Intercultural Relations to the Director-General of UNESCO and participates in the Organisation of European Youth Campaigns against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance sponsored by the Council of Europe since 1994.

She holds honorary doctoral degrees from the Universities of Louvain (1990) in Belgium, Grenoble (1996) and Paris (1999) in France, and Nebraska-Wesleyan University (1988) and the Juilliard School of Music in New York (2000) in the USA. She has been an honorary member of the San Remo Institute of Humanitarian Law (Italy) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music since 1990. Among other distinctions, she is a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (1990) and Commandeur of the Order of French Arts and Letters, and has received the Lions Club International Award (2001) and the 2004 Xifra Heras International Award from the University of Gerona (2004), as well as the Save the Children Award (2009), Spain.

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