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Barbara Hendricks

Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts 2000

Barbara Hendricks (Stephens, Arkansas, USA., 1948) 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. A lawyer heard her sing and offered her the opportunity of studying at the prestigious Julliard School in New York. 

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n 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 comedies, French melodies and Negro spirituals. She has sung oratorio with the world’s major conductors, such as Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Metha, George Solti, Claudio Abbado 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 with the Magnus Lindgren Quartet. In 2000, she premiered Molna Elegy by Sven-David Sanström, a work commissioned by her for the Festival of Gotland (Sweden).

Tireless in her fight for Human Rights, she is a United Nations High Commission for Refugees 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 Dubrovnick (1991) and Sarajevo (1993), where she performed wearing a bullet-proof vest.  She is also Special Advisor on Intercultural Relations for UNESCO and participates in the Organisation of European Youth Campaigns against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance sponsored by the Council of Europe since 1994. 

Member of the International Tribunal for Children’s Rights, created by the Association for Humanitarian Action, she holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Louvain (Belgium), Grenoble (France) and Nebraska (USA). She is a member of the San Remo Institute of Humanitarian Law (Italy) and the Swedish Academy of Music. Among other distinctions, she has received the French Legion of Honour and the Order of Commander of Arts and Letters, the Lions Club International Award (2001) and the 2004 Xifra Heras International Award from the University of Gerona. 

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